The Public Utility Commission of Texas on Feb. 21 said that it has issued a series of orders intended to protect electricity customers, including one that calls for an immediate suspension of disconnections for non-payment until further notice.
“Our absolute top priority as a commission and a state is protecting electricity customers from the devastating effects of a storm that already affected their delivery of power,” Commission Chairman DeAnn Walker said in the statement. “The order and directives are intended to be temporary, likely through the end of this week, to address the potential financial impacts that are especially challenging during this extremely difficult time.”
As noted in a Feb. 21 order, the commission said:
- All retail electric providers are prohibited from sending a request to disconnect a customer for nonpayment to transmission and distribution utilities
- All transmission and distribution utilities are prohibited from disconnecting a customer for nonpayment
- The prohibition on disconnection also applies to prepaid customers
- All retail electric providers must continue to offer a deferred payment plan to customers, upon request
The commission noted that while ERCOT has left its Energy Emergency Alert Level 3 (EEA3), recovery from the emergency conditions is continuing. ERCOT declared its highest state of emergency — EEA3 — on Feb. 15, due to exceptionally high electric demand exceeding limited supply, the commission said.
In another Feb. 21 order, the commission said that in an attempt to protect the overall integrity of the financial electric market in the ERCOT region, it concludes that it is necessary to authorize the system operator to use its sole discretion in taking actions under the ERCOT Nodal Protocols to resolve financial obligations between a market participant and ERCOT.
The commission said that it is appropriate that ERCOT’s discretion include its ability to take such actions as:
- Deviate from protocol deadlines and timing related to settlements, collateral obligations, and invoice payments
- Utilize available funds, such as undistributed congestion revenue right auction revenues, to cover short-paying invoice recipients
- Relax credit requirements and release cash or other collateral to provide short-term market-participant liquidity
- Deviate from protocol requirements regarding the maximum amount of default uplift invoices
- Suspend breach notifications to certain market participants for failure to make payment or provide financial security
- Produce reconciliation settlements following market stabilization
The commission noted that its order does not relieve market participants of payment or financial security obligations with ERCOT. The commission also said that market participants remain liable for all charges associated with any activity related to their relationship with ERCOT and any expenses arising from the consequences of termination of a market participant’s agreements with ERCOT or revocation of the market participant’s rights to conduct activities with ERCOT.