Texas power regulator cuts service fees, takes no action on repricing

FILE PHOTO: A neighborhood experiences a power outage after winter weather caused electricity blackouts in San Marcos

(Reuters) – The Texas power regulator on Friday voted to remove about $1 billion in service fees levied on grid users but took no action on petitions asking it to cut sharply higher power prices during a mid-February cold snap.

The state’s grid operator hiked power prices by about 400 times the usual rate to $9,000 per megawatt for five days last month, pushing two power companies into bankruptcy and prompting others to default on bills. State officials this week called on the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to reprice 32 hours worth of power for the period after the grid emergency passed.

PUC Chairman Arthur D’Andrea strenuously opposed the repricing in remarks to lawmakers on Thursday, saying he disagreed with the request and warned that retroactively cutting prices would lead to lawsuits.

“We need to get back to a more deliberative mode in this agency,” D’Andrea said at the outset of Friday’s meeting. “That means trying to stop doing everything on an emergency basis.”

The fees that were cut involved payments to power generators for standby power and other services not provided during the mid-February cold snap, according to the state’s market adviser.

D’Andrea, the last remaining member of the commission after two resignations, also ordered the state’s grid operator to extend its deadline for accepting freeze-related grid payment disputes to six months from 10 days.

(Reporting by Gary McWilliams; Editing by Paul Simao)

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