By Duane Ediger
No surprise $17,000 utility bills, please!
Arizonans can be grateful that Texas gave us a warning about a misguided effort in AZ to open the retail electricity market to a wide swath of deceptive practices.
A frigid February arctic wallop knocked out electric service across Texas. But many customers whose service continued may have wished it hadn’t.
Scott Willoughby of Royce City, Texas, had a typical monthly electric bill of $200. During the cold snap, it shot up to $16,800, which was automatically deducted from his bank account by his competitive market supplier, Griddy. The payment eroded Willoughby’s retirement savings. (See NBC report, from 5:06)
Arizona is on the cusp of a decision that could lead to similar customer treatment here.
A currently open docket in the Arizona Corporation Commission is an attempt to follow long-expired guidance from the State Legislature. In the late 1990s, the legislature mandated the Corporation Commission to open electric retail sales to competition before the end of 1998. But bad experiences in other states following the same path led Arizona to drop such efforts.
The guidance was only taken up again in 2019, when a retail competition docket opened under Commissioner Justin Olson. Olson has attempted to steer the docket on a path based on the Texas model, which has long invited shady and deceptive offers from retailers to customers. New scrutiny will undoubtedly lead to reassessment in the Lone Star state.
Arizonans would do well to closely examine Texas’ mistakes and adopt measures that are giving customers in other states the kinds of choices they really want. Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) is leading to lower prices and cleaner air in states across our country. CCA allows cities and towns to buy clean/green electricity in the aggregate and pass cost savings onto customers.
Not only do customers buy their electricity at a discount, they still have the option to opt out of the CCA and stay with their utility if they so choose. So it’s a win-win. Moreover, customers have a say in what kinds of energy CCAs purchase. Think of a city selling energy to customers in the same way it sells garbage and water, except with choices and a say over those choices.
CCAs give customers choice while avoiding the chaos and deceptive practices that rightly gave our state pause twenty years ago.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4UbmnTpbqr0 (5:06 – 6:19)