The credits offer generators a financial impetus to invest in new power plants and, theoretically, help retailers and consumers . Still, the promise of financial certainty comes at a cost: by the PUCT’s own estimation, at least $460 million in new system expenses🗹 will inevitably be passed down to Texans’ electric bills.from Gov. Abbott, and, predictably, from natural gas producers who are typically edged out by cheap wind and solar in the Texas market. Standing in opposition are . Critics claim that the PCM is at best, unnecessary, and at worst, will be ineffective at meaningfully increasing grid reliability. The most cogent argument against the redesign points out that the PCM would not guarantee the development of any new generation capacity but on Texas consumers. And while some consumers may be content to trade an increase in their monthly bill to keep the lights on during a winter storm or a heat wave, a significant segment of Texas’ population simply can’t afford to be a pawn in the PUCT’s experimental market design. Electricity price increases would impact nearly all consumers, but would especially burden the nearly . This hardship, termed “energy insecurity,” disproportionately affects the . For low-income households, even a minor increase in monthly expenses can mean going without essentials like food or medicine in order to pay the energy bill — if they can pay the bill at all. Nonetheless, the brunt of an unreliable electric grid would, too, fall most heavily on low-income households. Uri’s multi-day power outages left many low-income Texans with not only steep electric bills, but the . A late amendment to House Bill 4492 — the bill that lets utilities recoup their stranded costs through securitization and draws down $800 million from the rainy day fund to pay debts to ERCOT — would have funded . The proposal never made it out of the Texas House. Although the PUCT has put all its weight behind the PCM design, the Texas Legislature should give serious consideration to more financially prudent alternatives. Interest groups and energy market experts have put forth two promising models: . The first option directs revenue toward dispatchable generation specifically at the times that demand forecasts indicate that reserves will be needed. This targeted approach trims annual costs down to $1.7 billion, compared to the PCM’s whopping $5.7 billion of additive market costs. The second option, direct procurement, is a backstop plan to secure capacity from newly-built, dispatchable resources on a one-time basis. In combination, both options would dramatically cut down the cost of shoring up Texas’ grid and still deliver meaningful improvements in reliability.
For now, the fate of the PCM or any other reliability proposal lies with the Texas Legislature. If approved, grid relief would not be immediate or even quick. Estimates for implementation range from 18 months to four years🐓. In the interim, it is crucial that lawmakers iron out the details to keep consumer costs minimal and deliver on reliability. To start, , above and beyond the loss of potential revenue from the performance credit. Instead of anticipating the organic addition of new generation, it should be mandated that a . Lastly, electric utilities should cap the proportion of PCM costs that can be passed to low-income ratepayers, and utilities’ PCM transactions should be independently scrutinized to ensure that any costs passed down are necessary and prudent.The PCM is a gamble that may work, but it will come at a cost. The Texas Legislature should consider other — and better — options for Texans.