AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Lawmakers tasked with reviewing state agencies on The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission approved new recommendations for the future of the Public Utility Commission Wednesday evening.
Amid anxiety about the Texas electric grid, the Sunset Commission acted on testimony from PUC employees that detailed concerns about the agency’s funding and performance.
In a November report, PUC staff told the commission the electric utility regulator “cannot truly fulfill expectations for ensuring a reliable electric grid” without more resources, clear decision-making processes, and improved communication efforts.
As the state’s regulator of utilities vital to serving Texas’ increasing population and growing economy, PUC has a duty to communicate well with the public,” the report states. “However, continuing confusion over PUC’s jurisdiction and responsibilities… prevents the agency from adequately educating and informing consumers.”
The report asks lawmakers to require the agency to form a strategic communications plan and to direct them to provide easily-accessible information on a modernized website.
The Sunset Commission approved all of the original recommendations detailed in the report.
The commission met one day after Gov. Greg Abbott delivered a letter to the Public Utility Commission voicing his support for a utility market redesign plan. He directed the agency to implement new measures to reinforce grid reliability last July, after the deadly 2021 winter storm prompted a reimagination of the market structures and profit incentives that keep the lights on in Texas
“The Performance Credit Mechanism (PCM) must be given strong consideration,” Gov. Abbott wrote to the PUC on Tuesday. “The fact that generators have already publicly committed
to build thousands of new megawatts of dispatchable generation resources if the PCM is adopted and implemented by the PUC further supports this point.”
Some interest groups have expressed skepticism that a change will be in the best interest of utility-bill payers.
“When the state is considering different options, they really need to keep an eye out for keeping the cost down, or else people are going to lose electricity a different way, because it’ll become unaffordable,” Tim Morstad with AARP Texas said. “Any increase really should be scrutinized. Is it absolutely necessary? Is there any way we can achieve these objectives without spending so much of Texans our hard-earned money?”
The commission’s recommendations now go to the legislature for approval, the third and final step in the Sunset process.