The push and pull on Texas' electric retail markets

The turmoil that has plagued Texas’ electric markets this summer continues to have repercussions on both the personal and corporate level.

electricrates3 Evelyn Maxey, 87, at her North Houston home, where Rep. Sylvester Turner called for changes in state electric rules on Monday. Maxey’s electric bill was more that $200 even though she uses no air conditioner.(Dave Rossman/For the Chronicle)

As our consumer reporter David Ellison reported today some state lawmakers are trying to freeze power shut-offs for consumers given the high rates and high temperatures.
And electric retailers seem to be falling over themselves in their earnings releases to make it clear they’re not making that much money in the state’s retail markets.
Houston-based Reliant Energy had a good quarter, reporting net income of $358.7 million, versus a loss of $282.9 million for last year. But Reliant made sure to include in the headline of its release “Retail financial results impacted by extraordinary weather and market conditions in ERCOT”:

“We have made very good progress implementing our strategic priorities and are well-positioned in light of current market conditions,” said Mark Jacobs, president and chief executive officer. “During the quarter, the retail business delivered disappointing financial results driven by extreme weather and transmission constraints in the Texas electricity market. While these factors impact our 2008 results, we believe we have taken the necessary steps to reduce their potential magnitude going forward. Reliant Energy continues to offer a robust value proposition and expects to generate significant free cash flow.”

PNM Resources, the New Mexico-based utility that owns First Choice Energy, Texas’ 4th largest retailer (with about 260,000 customers according to a recent Fitch report) said it may actually sell First Choice:

PNM Resources Chairman Jeff Sterba …. called PNM Resources’ Texas operations “disappointing.” He said First Choice Power, which sells electricity in the unregulated Texas market, “struggled” because of volatile natural gas and wholesale power prices.

Sterba said the company is committed to the Texas market.
“However, given the challenges we face in restoring financial health to our PNM utility subsidiary, we believe First Choice Power could have more value to another market participant,” he said.

But according to the “2008 Texas State Energy” plan released by the Governor’s Competitiveness Council last week, we need to stay the course:

“The state should resist efforts to re-regulate the market and instead adopt the recommendations in this plan, while retaining the oversight of the PUC and ERCOT over the market.”