It’s a common refrain from readers whenever we write about electricity in Texas:
“This whole game of trying to figure out which electric provider to place your bet on is one I don’t feel electric users should have to play. Let’s go back to a regulated power supply.”
This reader isn’t alone:
“Yes, you can put the genie back in the bottle,” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat who is suggesting a return to price controls for residential and small business customers. “If you can deregulate, you can regulate.”
And Texas isnt’ the only state with such discontent, as this recent Platt’s story points out:
“We have learned that a hands-off, pro-business approach has failed us in Maryland and failed us badly,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley on Saturday said in a keynote address to the Maryland Association of Counties annual summer conference in Ocean City, Maryland.
O’Malley said no new power plants have been built in the state in decades and that despite growth in the state’s electricity demand, “the market did not respond as promised.”
Despite that bleak critique, O’Malley said re-regulation is unlikely.
“No one is willing to raise the $20 billion in new revenue that would be required to buy back power plants or the $10 billion that would put the state squarely in the business of power generation,” he said.
That, in a nutshell (and with different dollar figures) is what it will likely take to turn say, Houston, into a municipal utility like Austin and San Antonio.
More specifically, the assets you have to regather under one roof:
1. Most, if not all, of the power plants in the Houston area. Even if we were to buy most of the plants that were part of the former Houston Light & Power from their current owner, NRG Energy, we’d still be short on energy since the Houston area is a net importer of power. NRG bought the plants for about $5.8 billion. It’s a safe bet those plants are worth a lot more these days (Warren Buffet just took a big stake in NRG).
2. Houston’s approximately 2 million customers. Even if you started with Reliant Energy,which still has the largest number of customers locally, there would still be hundreds of thousands with other providers to gather up.
3. The existing power transmission and distribution company here in town, CenterPoint Energy.