Why Don’t All Texans Have Choice in Electric Providers?

The Power to Choose Energy in Texas

The Texas electricity market was deregulated in the year 2002, allowing Retail Electric Providers (REPs) to compete in a free market. In other words, electric utilities no longer hold a monopoly over the energy supply in Texas. These days there are over 12o competing energy companies in Texas

Currently, around 85% of Texans live in energy deregulated cities, and this includes Houston and the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. However, electricity remains regulated in many cities, which are represented by the Texas Public Power Association (TPPA).

As of August 2020, the TPPA has 72 member cities that have decided to remain outside of the deregulated market. These municipal utility companies serve 5.1 million Texans, representing around 15% of electricity consumers. The largest of these municipal electric companies is CPS Energy in San Antonio.

Why Haven’t All Electric Utilities in Texas Been Deregulated?

You might be wondering then, why can’t all Texans choose their electric providers? This has to do with how deregulation was legally structured: it was made mandatory for investor-owned utilities, but optional for municipal utilities and electric cooperatives.

In other words, these companies can decide not to participate in the competitive retail electricity market.

  • As implied by their name, municipal utilities normally serve a specific municipality and are owned by the city government.
  • On the other hand, electric cooperatives are owned by their customers, and profits are either reinvested or distributed among electricity consumers.

Municipal utilities and electric co-ops are examples of publicly-owned utilities, and they are both non-profit organizations. Although there are exceptions, municipal utilities are typically found in urban areas, while electric cooperatives are often established in rural areas. From a financial standpoint, municipal utilities in Texas are very stable businesses, most of them having a bond rating of A or A+.

These companies can only become deregulated through a resolution by their board of directors or governing body; however, once they agree the process is irreversible.

Texas Cities Without a Retail Electricity Market

As mentioned above, the TPPA currently has 72 member cities. This section of the article will focus on the largest cities with regulated electricity, and municipal power companies who are ERCOT members. 

The following table lists the municipal utility companies who are ERCOT corporate members. Note that deregulation is not mandatory for membership.

City Power Company Additional information
Austin Austin Energy Deregulation in surrounding cities like Manor, Pflugerville and Lakeway.
Brownsville Brownsville Public Utilities Board Covers most of the city, but some areas to the north are deregulated.
Bryan Bryan Texas Utilities Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Brenham City of Brenham Electric Department Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Burnet City of Burnet Electric Department Covers all ZIP codes in the city
College Station College Station Utilities Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Cuero City of Cuero Electric Department Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Fredericksburg City of Fredericksburg Electric Dept. Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Denton Denton Municipal Electric Deregulation in some parts of the city, and surrounding cities: Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek, Shady Shores, Corinth, Lantana, Aubrey, Justin, Krum, Ponder
Garland Garland Power & Light Covers most of the city, with deregulation in some areas.
Georgetown Georgetown Utility Systems Serves most of Georgetown and some areas of Round Rock. Deregulation in surrounding cities like Serenada, Jarrell and Andice.
San Marcos San Marcos Electric Utility Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
San Antonio CPS Energy (City Public Service) Covers all ZIP codes in the city.
Greenville GEUS 

(Greenville Electric Utility System)

Deregulation in some parts of the city and surrounding areas like Wieland and Cash
Kerrville Kerrville Public Utility Board Serves all ZIP codes in the city.
New Braunfels New Braunfels Utilities Serves all ZIP codes in the city.

The list of electrical cooperatives who are part of ERCOT is much longer, with 40 corporate members and one associate member as of 2020.

The cities of El Paso and Amarillo are served by investor-owned utilities: El Paso Electric and Southwestern Public Service Company (Xcel Energy), respectively. However, the local wholesale markets and power grids are not ready for a competitive retail market, and electric choice is not available yet.

The areas served by Entergy Texas and AEP SWEPCO in eastern Texas also lack electric choice, even when these companies are private. These areas have not developed adequate conditions for a competitive electricity market, and deregulation has been delayed.

Electricity Choice in Lubbock, Texas

The city of Lubbock utilities is a special case. In June 2021, Lubbock Power & Light (city-owned utility) will join ERCOT, but this does not mean deregulation and electric choice will happen right away.

  • LP&L will have the option of purchasing electricity from other parts of Texas, which could lead to lower electricity prices for its customers.
  • LP&L currently purchases all of its electricity from Xcel Energy.
  • In preparation for this, LP&L is upgrading its transmission infrastructure to enable interconnection with ERCOT.

Electricity providers will be chosen by LP&L, while Lubbock citizens will continue to purchase their power from them. In other words, electricity choice will be available for the city in general, but not yet for individual citizens.

Do You Have Electricity Choice?

If you live in a region of Texas without a retail electricity market, the outlook depends on your location and Transmission and Delivery Utility (TDU).  You can search for your TDU here at Quick Electricity. If you purchase electricity from a municipal utility or an electric cooperative, deregulation is only possible if the company voluntarily joins the retail market.

On the other hand, deregulation could happen shortly if you live in El Paso, Amarillo, or the Entergy Texas and AEP SWEPCO service areas. The retail electricity market will be available as soon as the grid infrastructure and wholesale market deliver the right conditions.

Why don't all Texas cities have a choice in electric providers? Texas Cities with Electric Choice

There are over 400 cities in Texas with electric choice including major cities Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth. View our complete list of energy deregulated cities in the state. Ready to shop for a new electricity provider? Find your next power company at Quick Electricity.