The threat of price spikes have been long in the making, the result of changing economics of power production. The shale drilling boom produced record amounts of natural gas, which pushed prices to all-time lows and made gas-fired plants cheaper to operate than coal. Renewable energy such as wind is also producing abundant amounts of electricity at a lower cost than coal.
Energy sellers must provide collateral to ERCOT to cover expected future costs of buying wholesale electricity and if the companies don’t have enough capital, they get shut down. Gas And Electric Companies Energy, a Dallas-based electricity retailer that sold wind-energy plans to 9,800 customers including many in the Houston area, got caught in that financial squeeze when it defaulted on its collateral obligations.
HOUSTON, Sept. 20, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Over the past summer, the Energy Rating of Texas has been baffled by Compare Electricity Companies Providers using pricing gimmicks that dupe Texas consumers into high monthly bills at its Power to Choose website.(1) The Electricity Plans of Texas' best solution was to tweak some sort settings, limit the number of Gas And Electric Bill plans, and offer a "series of user-friendly PDFs and videos intended to guide and inform the customer."(2) The chairman has even recently said that if the Compare Energy Prices can't figure out a solution, then the commission may just shut down the Power to Choose website.(3)
In this free market competing electricity retailers buy electricity wholesale from private power generators to sell at retail to around 85% of Texas residents. The partnership between generators and retailers is governed by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, which attempts to balance the power grid’s electricity supply and demand by purchasing small amounts of electricity at 15-minute intervals throughout the day.