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City Council weighs choice to bring electric competition back to Lubbock

Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 10:30 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Now that some of Lubbock Power & Light’s customers have migrated to the ERCOT grid, City Council can start considering bringing electric competition back to Lubbock. LP&L presented a path forward to council members Tuesday. Mayor Pro Tempore Steve Massengale says it’s the first time opting into the retail market has been discussed since 2018.

In 1999, the Texas Legislature signed Senate Bill 7, deregulating the portion of the ERCOT market served by investor-owned utilities. Outside of that portion, 72 municipally-owned utilities and 75 member-owned electric cooperatives exist in Texas today. To date, none of these public power utilities have chosen to deregulate and join the retail electric market.

Making the switch is something City Council is currently considering. If the council decides to opt-in to the retail market for electricity, there’s no turning back. Conversation about the potentially permanent switch-up came with plenty of questions and suggestions.

“One thing I think we could do starting today is to stop using acronyms. They don’t mean anything to your average customer or your above-average customer,” Councilwoman Latrelle Joy said.

PUC, PURA, POLR, and EUB were all acronyms included in LP&L’s presentation to the council about bringing electric competition back to Lubbock.

“I’m Miss Mary and I didn’t make the meetings. The information you provided was totally over my head, and it’s time to do the big switcheroo and I have no idea what to do and I don’t do it. What happens to me?” Councilwoman Shelia Patterson Harris said.

The City must designate a POLR, or provider of last resort, where customers will be placed if they don’t make a choice. Massengale says that decision is just as important as the one to opt-in to the market.

Many council members say customers need to understand what’s going on if Lubbock makes the switch. Councilman Juan Chadis called it a daunting task. David McCalla, Director of Electric Utilities, says there will be community meetings, workshops, online information, and additional customer service reps to help.

“I think that’s the main point of all this, customers will have a choice. Right now they don’t have a choice, we’re their provider. They will have a choice, but there will be an obligation on them to do some homework and do some research and pick the provider that’s best for them,” McCalla said.

There is still work to be done before the city can opt-in to customer choice, like updating software and communication programs and adding some staff. The work includes fully integrating the power in Lubbock to ERCOT. 30 percent of the city is not on that grid and will migrate in May of 2023, pending state approval.

LP&L will present to the Electric Utility Board again Wednesday and council conversations will continue. If they do decide to opt-in, the tentative schedule looks like the competition could be back in Lubbock by October of 2023. You can find a draft of the proposal that would initiate the switch here: https://public.destinyhosted.com/lubbodocs/2021/REGCCM/20211214_948/10336_LPandL_DRAFT.pdf.

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