Texas Public Utility Commission

Flipping the Switch

The Public Utility Commission is poised to pass new rules that could prohibit some Texans from switching from one electric company to another. But as Mose Buchele of KUT News reports, advocates for the elderly and infirm are concerned about the impact of the proposal on some of the state's most vulnerable ratepayers.

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 Graphic by Ben Hasson

TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Hu compares and contrasts the official schedules of four big-state governors (including Rick Perry) and picks the 21 Texas House races to watch, Ramshaw on a 19-year-old with an IQ of 47 sentenced to 100 years in prison, Stiles on Perry's regent-donors, Galbraith on a plan to curb the independence of the state's electricity grid, Thevenot on the turf war over mental health, Grissom on whether the Texas Youth Commission should be abolished, Aguilar on a crucial immigration-related case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Ramsey's interview with GOP provocateur Debra Medina and M. Smith on how changes to campaign finance law will affect judicial elections in Texas: The best of our best from August 23 to 27, 2010.

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 Graphic by Tres Amigas

Hola, Amigas

Texas has always operated its own electricity grid, separate from the two other grids that span the rest of the nation. But a project quietly emerging in eastern New Mexico could curb that independence — and affect energy prices here in ways that remain much in dispute.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Stiles on Bill White's donor-appointees, M. Smith on a form of meritless lawsuit that's still legal in Texas, Ramshaw on what federal health care reform means for the future of physician-owned specialty hospitals, Galbraith's interview with the chairman of the Public Utility Commission, Philpott on the latest flap over federal education funding, Grissom on the finally-in-compliance Dallas County Jail, Titus on the oiled pelicans of the BP spill, Hamilton's interview with the new chancellor of the Texas State University System, Ramsey on the political and legal definitions of residency, Hu on Barack Obama's visit to Austin and Aguilar on what the U.S. could be doing to aid Mexico: The best of our best from August 9 to 13, 2010.

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Barry Smitherman: The TT Interview

The chairman of the Public Utility Commission talked to the Tribune this week about his controversial application for the top job at the state grid operator, as well as his views on energy efficiency and smart meters.

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TribBlog: Efficiency Sufficiency

Within 10 days, the Public Utility Commission plans to adopt stricter requirements for energy efficiency, though they are lower than originally proposed.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

The Off Switch

Rather than building new power plants just to meet peak electricity demand on hot summer afternoons, why not just persuade people and companies to use less electricity? "Demand response" is quickly taking hold in Texas.

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 Spencer Selvidge

Alternating Current

Since 1999, when then-Gov. George Bush signed a law that deregulated the Texas electricity market, a debate has raged about whether and how much the move has benefitted ordinary Texans. Who's right?

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TribBlog: Hegar: No PUC Revolving Door

When reports surfaced that the Public Utility Comission chair was being considered for the Electric Reliability Council of Texas' top job, watchdogs questioned whether he could legally — or ethically — apply for the job. If Sunset Advisory Commission Chair Glenn Hegar's recommendations stick, the answer will soon be no.

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 ERCOT

TribBlog: Room at the Top, and Then Some

Jan Newton — who chairs the board of directors at the state's electric utility grid operator — is stepping down from that post, leaving the agency with interim officeholders and holes in key positions at the top of its organization chart.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

TribBlog: 13 Months of Sunset

For a certain kind of animal — i.e., the Policy Wonk — this is a gift: Sunset reports on insurance and utility regulators and on the capital city's transportation authority hit the internet this morning.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

Net Neutrality Neutralized

FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell on why people who use more bandwith should pay more, what he thinks of the recent court decision preventing restrictions on "information service" providers, and more.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

Wind in the Wires

Many Texans like wind power. Few want electric transmission lines running through their ranches. Herein lies the problem.

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TribWeek: In Case You Missed It

Grissom on her two hours in Juárez, Grissom, Ramshaw and Ramsey on four of the runoffs on Tuesday's ballot, Ramshaw on the religious experience that is voting for Dallas County's DA and an energy regulator's play for a job at the entity he regulates, Mulvaney on the Texas Senate's biggest spenders, Aguilar on whether — as U.S. officials claim — 90 percent of guns used in Mexican crimes really flow south from Texas, M. Smith on the continuing Texas Forensic Science Commission follies, Stiles on how inmates spend their money behind bars and how counties are responding at Census time, Hamilton on the creative accounting and semantic trickery that allows lawmakers to raise revenue without hiking taxes when there's a budget shortfall, and Hu on Austin's first-in-the-nation car-sharing program. The best of our best from April 5 to 9, 2010.

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The Applicant

Can an energy regulator who’s on the board of an entity he oversees make a play for the top job there? Industry and government sources say that’s what Barry Smitherman, the chairman of Texas’ influential Public Utility Commission, is doing, though Smitherman won't say whether he's in the running.

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 Caleb Bryant Miller

Don't Blow It

Texas' wind power prowess is well known: Turbines have been popping up like weeds, and we now have three times the wind power installed as the next closest state. But other renewable energy sources have lagged here.

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Investing in Efficiency

Texans have always been far better at making energy than saving it. But if a proposal before the Public Utility Commission gets approved this year, buildings and appliances would need to become much more energy efficient by 2014. Electric providers across the state would be required to offset 50 percent of their customers' growth in usage with energy-efficiency measures — well above the current 20 percent requirement set by the Legislature.

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