UPDATE: PowerToChoose gets a bit more powerful

First it was the consumer complaint data. Now comes some financial info ….
The Texas Public Utility Commission continues to improve on the electricity shopping site used by many in the state by adding links to some of the business information related to the 30-plus retailers in the market.

dpi_image Is it just me or are images of kids playing videogames being used on just about every electric web site? Does Playstation3 = the new lightbulb? (From DPI’s web site.)

The additions come in the wake of at least five retailers going out of business for failing to keep up with their financial obligations to the state’s power grid operator during recent spikes in the wholesale power market. Some 42,000 customers have found themselves moved overnight to much more expensive plans with other providers, renewing calls for better information to help consumers pick a provider.
The new feature lists providers alphabetically, says how they met the state’s minimal financial requirements to become a retail provider and provides links to the latest amendments to the state certification documents.
For example, one of the newest retailers, Simple Power, met the minimum financial requirement by having unused cash of at least $100,000 on hand. Texpo Energy meets its financial obligations the same way, but instead of cash it has $100,000 in the form of a certificate of deposit.
Reliant Energy, on the other hand, met the minimum standard by having an investment grade credit rating – meaning large banks issue publicly available grades on the quality of the company’s debt obligations. And First Choice Power meets its obligations by having “assets in excess of liabilities of at least $50 million.”
DPI Energy appears to be the only retailer whose obligations are met by a combination of cash and a loan from an affiliated company.
While this information only provides a snapshot of the company at the time it registered – i.e. if there were financial issues pending right now it wouldn’t show up here – consumers may find it somewhat useful when paired with complaint data.
Do you find this useful? What more would you want to see?
*** UPDATE ***
Credit rating agency Fitch Ratings said in a report today it “does not foresee any adverse credit effects for the four principal Texas electricity market participants as a result of recent price spikes….”
By “four market participants” Fitch doesn’t mean specific companies but the four businesses that are a part of the Texas market, namely power generators, electric transmission and distribution (T&D) companies, utility tariff bonds and regional electric providers, or REPs.
Retail electric providers are the most at risk, however:

“Fitch views REPs to have the most exposure to high power prices and are the most at risk for default or bankruptcy from power spikes. This is specifically true for small REPs that purchase much of their energy needs on the spot market due to lack of sufficient hedging or liquidity support. Larger REPs that have effectively managed their liquidity position to hedge power supply are currently not at material risk from spiking spot power prices.”

fitch_2008_july_report Fitch’s outlook on those Texas retailers with credit ratings.

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