(Johnny Hanson /Houston Chronicle file photo)
Wednesday’s column, available on houstonchronicle.com:
CenterPoint Energy and the city are squaring off over claims that the company is overcharging some natural gas customers by more than $15 million a year.
The two sides will likely settle before the dispute goes much further, but the allegations of overcharging raise questions of whether the city should have a single gas supplier, and a chapter from Houston’s own history may provide the answer.
These days, the city awards a franchise to one company, CenterPoint. But it wasn’t always that way. In the early part of the last century, Houston was one of the few major U.S. cities that had more than one gas company.
“Competition did happen, and rates went down about 20 percent,” said Rob Bradley, chief executive and founder of the Houston-based Institute for Energy Research, whose book, “From Edison to Enron: Energy Markets and Political Strategies,” details what happened.