Texas Regulators Decline to Reprice $16 Billion Market ‘Error’
(Bloomberg) -- Texas regulators declined to rescind $16 billion in alleged overcharges for electricity during last month’s blackouts, leaving the state’s power market facing a potential financial crisis.
“Decisions were made about these prices in real time based, on information available to everybody,” said Arthur D’Andrea, chair of the Public Utility Commission of Texas during a meeting Friday. “It is nearly impossible to unscramble this sort of egg.”
The state’s independent market monitor had recommended that $16 billion in charges be reversed, saying that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, known as Ercot, overpriced power for two days during the crisis.
Retroactively adjusting those prices could have offered sweeping relief to companies facing astronomical bills in the wake of the grid emergency. With many generators crippled by the cold, electricity prices skyrocketed, squeezing anyone who had to buy power on the wholesale market. The grid operator now faces a $2.5 billion shortfall as more than a dozen companies face default. At least one utility has already filed for bankruptcy.
While utility commissioners didn’t close the door repricing in the future, they didn’t embrace the idea.
“Repricing the energy -- I would be more inclined to say we’re not going to do that,” said Commissioner Shelly Botkin. D’Andrea agreed, adding, “It looks like you’re protecting consumers. I promise you’re not.”
The commission also declined to vote on a request to retroactively adjust the price of certain grid services during the emergency, a move that would have offered relief to distressed companied and potentially saved consumers $2 billion, according to the market monitor. So-called ancillary services, which help maintain the flow of electricity on the system, jumped above $20,000 a megawatt-hour during the crisis. Retail electricity providers and others had asked for those charges to be capped at $9,000.
Texas’s biggest power generators have generally opposed any kind of repricing. But ahead of Friday’s meeting, Vistra Corp. told regulators in a filing that energy prices on Feb. 18 and 19 -- the days after the rolling outages ended -- should be changed “to an equitable calculation of the market clearing price.”
“Vistra continues to believe that the Commission should not take an arbitrary, piecemeal approach to repricing,” the company said in its filing. “But acting without allowing all market participants to engage is likely to create another set of parties that will be adversely affected by the new pricing structure.”
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