Eleven years ago the face of electricity and its regulations in Texas changed forever. As the second largest state in the country, the deregulation of electricity for the state was long overdue. Senator David Sibley began the process in 1999 and first introduced the legislation. In January 1, 2002, with the passing of Texas Senate Bill 7, energy consumers would now be offered the chance to choose their electricity provider. Prior to the passing of the bill, the electricity in Texas was a monopoly, with one company handling everything. Now, the selling of, servicing, and billing of accounts are handled by different power companies, which give customers choices as to which companies best serve their needs.
The changes, which have rolled out slowly since 2002, have seen numerous Texans switching to a new company. Both residential and business customers are now offered choices of retail electricity providers (R.E.P.) and can save money. The R.E.P. do not own and wires, the incumbent utility still owns and maintains local power lines. However, the dispersal of companies handling the billing, selling, and accounts management has meant a healthy competition that has benefited consumers. There now exist over a hundred R.E.P. that handle the disbursements of accounts, management, and billing to consumers.
As the largest electricity market in the country, Texas’ decision to deregulate was a large one. The state has the highest electricity consumption in the nation, $24 billion a year. Consumers and legislators alike wanted to regulate electricity in hopes of lowering energy prices. Since the law has gone into effect about 40% of residential consumers and 85% of businesses have switched providers at least once. For consumers, the options of providers and the enrollment perks they offer are worth the effort in shopping around. The law has also seen the installment and usage of ‘smart meters’ in more than three quarters of Texas’ homes and businesses. Smart meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central system. They provide a way of measuring site-specific information and allow providers to introduce different prices for consumption based on the time of day and the season.
Texas is one of the fastest growing states in the nation and welcome hundreds of new residents yearly. With the presence of a new generation and multiple sources of natural energy being explored, deregulation will open doors for newer and ongoing legislation.
The market for growth and the attraction of other companies to make Texas part of their energy efforts has increased with the deregulation. The law has accomplished an additional goal of attracting competitors to the market. According to the state senate office, the profitable and growing Texas electricity market has drawn considerable investment by wind-turbine companies. In July 2006, Texas surpassed California in wind energy production.
Electricity bills throughout the nation continue to rise and government and companies continue to invest millions into finding and generating new sources of energy. Renewable energy, fuel-efficient cars, and solar screens will continue to permit customers and the state to save money for both the country and consumers.