AUSTIN, Texas - The Public Utility Commission of Texas issued a series of orders Sunday intended to protect Texas electricity customers following the recent power outages caused by severe winter weather.
The emergency orders called for an immediate suspension of utility disconnects for non-payment until further notice and for the continuation of the COVID-19 measure that required REPs to offer deferred payment plans upon request.
The PUC is also ordering utilities not to process utility disconnects.
The PUC says the orders are applicable to customers of investor-owned utilities (IOUs) across the state that fall under its jurisdiction, namely Oncor, AEP, CenterPoint Energy, and Texas-New Mexico Power. The PUC says that these provisions do not apply to municipally owned utilities or electric cooperatives not within its jurisdiction.
The PUC is also strongly urging retail electric providers to delay invoicing for residential and small commercial electricity customers, including invoices with estimated meter reads.
"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," said Chairman DeAnn Walker. "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."
The PUC says the meeting’s second order was directed at ERCOT, calling on it to exercise the discretion under ERCOT protocols to deviate from protocol deadlines and timing related to settlements, collateral obligations, and invoice payments.
These orders follow an emergency meeting Saturday where state officials discussed the spike in energy bills affecting many Texans. Gov. Greg Abbott called the meeting with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, and several members of the Texas Legislature.
According to Abbott's office, the governor discussed the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market. Some Texans have been reporting energy bills in the thousands following the power outages, with one Arlington family reporting a bill of $17,000 for three meters over five days of use.