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AARP Comments on Ideas To Reform Texas’ Electricity Market

AARP Texas has filed comments with the Public Utility Commission of Texas to put on record the Association’s stance on a host of proposed “market reform” ideas that arise in the wake of the electric system’s failure during Winter Storm Uri.

The five-page filing emphasizes the need for affordable, reliable and sustainable service.

While lending support for reform and bolstering reliability of the Texas utility grid, the comments address numerous particulars in how the Texas electricity market should change without bringing new financial hardships to older Texans and others.

For instance, the comments go beyond simply endorsing new approaches that can reduce energy demand but also lends support for investing in proven programs to weatherize homes.

“Like systemwide outages, unaffordable power can present dangerous outcomes, especially for older Texans,” according to the filing, which is signed by AARP Texas Associate State Director Tim Morstad.

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AARP says in the filing that the Texas Legislature “provided an initial framework” for responding to the February disaster, which left hundreds dead and millions of homes and businesses without power for days, but concludes that the “important work of market reform” is now in the hands of the PUC.

The filing also states that recent actions taken by the Commission and Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) “are a good first step” and that there’s now “an opportunity to fundamentally redesign” the electricity market in Texas “to ensure greater reliability with fair and affordable rates for consumers.”

On a question being studied by PUC staff of whether all power generators should be required to offer a “minimum commitment in the day-ahead market” as a precondition for participating in the market, the AARP comments noted that doing so could jeopardize ratepayers’ investment in renewable energy and the accuracy of short-term forecasting. “The Commission should be extremely careful in its approach to such a policy to ensure that potential negative consequences will not make the reliability objective even more tenuous,” the AARP filing states.

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Comments also were given on the topic of “residential demand response” programs, with AARP pointing out that while additional opportunities exist, certain conditions “make demand response a poor match for some residential electricity customers.” The filing states that many people on low and fixed incomes are unable to acquire smart thermostats, and high-tech energy management systems. “AARP supports the Commission exploring more basic and cost-effective alternatives to reduce energy usage” and noted that over half of Texas homes were built before the state adopted building energy codes with insulation requirements in 2001.

The AARP comments make a point of stating that “ERCOT needs improved forecasting and planning, with more attention to non-summer months.” It also states the PUC “should explore programs that can provide certain electricity consumers incentive to shave peak year-round. And AARP expresses support for the PUC exploring “a backstop reliability mechanism” for the ERCOT market.

The AARP Texas filing can be read in full at the PUC documents interchange or by clicking on this link.

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