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SB 1945, if passed, would modify the Utilities Code (Section 33.122) by allowing certain customers of municipally owned utilities to petition the Public Utility Commission to review current electrical rates. This section would only apply to those utilities with at least 400,000 customers and is governed by a municipality with a population of less than 1,300,000 and is located within an ERCOT power region. The customers may file a petition if they use 25,000,000 kwh of electricity or more per year.
The bill would also state that the municipality must file a rate application with the Commission within 90 days of the petition being filed. This 90 day period could be extended if good cause is found. At this point the Commission would conduct a full rate review in accordance with Chapter 36 to determine whether the rates are reasonable. The Commission reserves the right not to set new rates.
SB 1945 is a beneficial bill in that it allows citizens to petition the government; in this case a municipal utility provider that does not operate in a competitive market based. The bill is quite narrow, being designed with Austin Energy in mind. As such the rationale behind the bill, which is a laudable one, could easily be expanded to allow more customers to petition for rate changes in other noncompetitive energy markets within Texas. This could be done by loosening the requirements listed in the first part of the bill. Even though improvements could be made, SB 1945 is certainly a step in the right direction and as such we support the bill on the basis of its support of limited government, individual liberty, and free markets.