Steffy: What has electric deregulation cost you?

(Bloomberg)

Most consumers already know the answer. Deregulation has cost Texans billions of dollars in higher rates, and even though rates have fallen in recent years as natural gas prices declined, those savings haven’t outweighed the previous years of more expensive electricity.

That’s the conclusion of a study released recently by the Texas Coalition for Affordable Power. The group found that Texans have paid an extra $10.4 billion in electricity prices that exceeded the national average during the decade of deregulation, even accounting for lower prices in the past two years.

The report also found that Texas leads most other states that have deregulated their retail power markets in price increases from 1999 through August of this year, with average prices rising almost 48 percent during that period.

Prior to deregulation, Texas enjoyed electricity rates that were lower than the national average. TCAP said that consumer losses may have been even greater when comparing deregulated and regulated markets within Texas.

Now, of course, consumers also have to worry about reliability. The double-whammy of deregulation is that with the current lower prices, generators can’t afford to keep the lights on. So consumers are once again being asked to pay more. The report was released on Friday at a meeting of the Texas Municipal League in Round Rock, where I outlined my own ideas for fixing the state’s troubled electricity market.

You can read TCAP’s full report, in PDF form, here.