Although most Texans have the power to choose their electricity provider under the competition that has been introduced into the state's electric industry, many areas of Texas have not opened up to electric choice, depriving customers of the lower rates and better service that comes from choice.
Several of the big utilities, such as Entergy, El Paso, SWEPCO, and SPS were not required to give customers choice because they are not connected to the main Texas electric grid, known as ERCOT. Municipal utilities and electric cooperatives were also not forced to give customers a choice in their retail electric provider, and most have chosen not to, including Austin Energy and CPS Energy (San Antonio).
However, the fact that some areas of Texas do not have electric choice serves as a great laboratory to compare how customers are better off when they can choose their own electric provider.
As SaveOnEnergy.com® has repeatedly shown, electric rates are generally lower in parts of Texas with electric choice versus monopoly utilities, and electric rates in parts of Texas with electric choice are actually lower than the old monopoly rates from 2001 (without even taking into account inflation).
Recent protests over a rate hike at municipal electric utility Lubbock Power & Light only reinforce these findings.
As reported by KCBD-11, customers at Lubbock Power & Light are experiencing, "recent billing problems, customer service concerns, and increasing public outrage over the rate increase."
"Thousands of Lubbock residents have complained about the rate increase, saying that their bills have doubled or even tripled this month," KCBD-11 reported.
Also, KCBD-11 reports that despite the shocking tripling of customer bills, customers aren't being given any kind of payment options to spread out their payments: "People say they are calling LP&L and not being given the option of any kind of payment plan."
And although LP&L is ostensibly a municipal utility, it's governed by a board as opposed to elected city council members, and even Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson has little power over the company:
"They just passed a $227 million budget without one question about any expenditures in that budget. That concerns me as much as anything, that you can ask for this type of increase and yet you're not willing to scrub your budget," Robertson said.
If one of the dozens of competing electric providers in an area with customer choice tried to double or triple its charges, customers would immediately bolt to the company's many competitors for lower rates. Customers at LP&L do not have this choice, so prices aren't disciplined.
Additionally, LP&L blames much of the rate hike on an under-collection of prior costs, due to a computer billing error. In parts of the state with electric choice, if electric providers do not bill customers properly, they are limited as to how much they can later go back and charge customers. Additionally, customers dissatisfied with a company's billing practices can switch to a competitor offering better billing and customer service.