In an open meeting held March 26, the Public Utility Commission of Texas responded to Governor Greg Abbott's declaration of emergency with a series of measures intended to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 hardships on power, water and sewer customers across the state.
The commissioners voted unanimously to issue order which will temporarily suspend a series of rules pertaining to provisions for utility industry participants to disconnect service for non-payment. They also created the COVID-19 Electricity Relief Program, a funding mechanism through which Retail Electric Providers may recover a reasonable portion of the cost of providing those uninterrupted services to customers facing financial hardship.
Under the orders, electric providers in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas must suspend late fees and offer deferred payment plans to residential customers in danger of disconnection. Customers at risk of disconnection because of coronavirus-related unemployment should first contact their provider to request a deferred payment plan.
Electric providers who forego disconnecting customers certified as experiencing COVID-19 hardships will be able to request reimbursement from the Electricity Relief Program, which will be funded by the proceeds of a 33-cent per megawatt hours of electricity per month. A household that typically uses 1,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each month, the charge on their bill would be an additional 33 cents.