Staples to PUC: Don't Overhaul Energy Market

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has something in common with Wendy Davis: Both are urging the Public Utility Commission of Texas to put the brakes on efforts to transform the state’s wholesale electricity market, saying the move would burden ratepayers with extra costs.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples answers an Evan Smith question at TribLive on October 31, 2013.

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has something in common with Sen. Wendy Davis: Both are urging the Public Utility Commission of Texas to halt efforts to transform the state’s wholesale electricity market, saying the move would burden consumers. 

In a letter to PUC Chairwoman Donna Nelson, Staples, who is running for lieutenant governor, said he opposes the idea of shifting Texas’ “energy only” market to a "capacity” market, which would pay electricity providers billions of dollars to maintain excess generating capacity. 

“Abandoning the free market has consequences. I am urging the Public Utility Commission to seek legislative solutions that will preserve the current market-based model,” Staples said Wednesday in a statement. “My focus as Lieutenant Governor will be to ensure that Texans continue to enjoy reliable and affordable power."

The proposal to overhaul the market has surfaced amid concerns that Texas will not have enough electricity to meet its future energy needs, as the state gets hotter and its population surges. It has touched off a debate that has largely pitted electric utilities and advocates against industrial energy users.

In a news release, Staples blamed David Dewhurst, his opponent in the Republican primary, for not doing more to address Texas’ grid troubles.

“This is just another example of failed leadership on David Dewhurst’s watch,” he said. “This issue should have been addressed years ago. By delaying, we are now looking at options that could cost taxpayers billions."

With his letter, Staples joins a chorus of state officials — including Davis, D-Fort Worth, her party’s presumptive nominee for governor — who say they oppose the shift, or want more details before the PUC makes a decision. 

The PUC has not formally proposed a market overhaul, but observers consider its recent nonbinding vote to mandate an electricity reserve margin as a step toward bigger changes.

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