By University of Houston Energy Fellows
May 11, 2021
Winter Storm Uri began to hit parts of Texas on February 13, 2021 and its onslaught left close to 4.5 million Texas homes and businesses without power at its peak. By some accounts, the preliminary number of deaths attributed to the storm is nearly 200, and the economic toll for the Lone Star State is estimated to be as high as $295 billion.
The more than two-thirds of Texans who lost power during this devastating storm were notably more negative than positive in their evaluation of the performance of their local electric utility, with one exception. That exception are the members of the more than 60 electric cooperatives operating within the Texas Interconnection electrical grid, which, in sharp contrast to the customers of the commercial utilities that provide power to the majority of Texans, gave their local utility a positive evaluation related to its performance during the storm.
In order to study Winter Storm Uri’s impact on Texas, the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston conducted an online survey during the first half of March of residents 18 and older who live in the 213 counties (91.5% of the state population) served by the Texas Electrical Grid, which is managed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
Three-quarters of the survey population (75%) live in areas with a deregulated utility market, where a specified transmission and delivery utility by region is responsible for delivering the electricity (purchased from one of a myriad of private companies by the consumer) to homes and businesses. The four main utility providers are Oncor, CenterPoint CNP +0.2%, American Electric Power (AEP) North, and American Electric Power (AEP) Central.
The other 25% of the survey population live in areas with regulated markets, where a single company is responsible for both delivering the electricity to homes and businesses and serves as the only source from which electricity is purchased. Municipal-owned and operated utilities (e.g., Austin Energy, Bryan Texas Utilities, Burnet Electric Department, Denton Municipal Electric, New Braunfels Utilities, San Antonio’s CPS Energy CMS +0.5%) serve 73% of the regulated market. Electric cooperatives (e.g., Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative, Central Texas Electric Cooperative, Guadalupe Valley Cooperative, Lamb County Electric Cooperative, Pedernales Electricity Cooperative, Wood County Electric Cooperative) serve one-fifth of this market (21%), with private companies accounting for 6% of the regulated market.
The overall distribution of the survey population by electric utility providers is: Oncor (38%), CenterPoint (21%), municipal-owned utilities (18%), AEP Central & AEP North combined (12%), electric cooperatives (6%), other providers in the deregulated market (4%) and other providers in the regulated market (1%).
There were no noteworthy differences among the 31% of Texans who did not lose power during the winter storm in regard to their evaluations of their local electricity provider or their belief that the power cuts in their locale were carried out in an equitable manner.
However, among the 69% of Texans who lost power, those served by electric cooperatives in the regulated market and those served by private electric utilities in the deregulated market differed notably regarding their evaluation of the performance of their local electric utility, both in regard to their management of the rolling blackouts and to their overall performance during the winter storm. Those Texans who lost power and are served by electric cooperatives in a regulated market had a significantly more positive evaluation of the performance of their local electric utility than did those Texans who lost power and are served by a private company in a deregulated electricity market.
Read the full news article on Forbes