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ERCOT says backlog of customers for Texas pilot has been erased

By Ann de Rouffignac
OGJ Online

HOUSTON, Oct. 18, 2001 — Electric Reliability Council of Texas said Thursday there is no backlog of customers in the retail pilot program waiting to be switched to a selected new electricity provider.

Documents that ERCOT presented to the Texas Public Utility Commission said that 78,820 customers are in some stage of the switching process and 15,400 are receiving power from their new provider.

The electricity market in Texas is set to be fully deregulated in January. The state embarked on a pilot program to test the systems earlier this summer by allowing 5% of ERCOT’s electricity customers to participate. But computer problems with implementation and an apparent lack of public information contributed to a low percentage of eligible participants

The pilot didn’t begin until late July and power didn’t flow for most customers until earlier this month. Many customers had signed up last spring, unaware that ERCOT was experiencing difficulties that would delay the pilot program. And retailers continued to sign up customers. Few customers were actually switched to the new electricity provider, so a “backlog” formed.

“There is no backlog anymore,” said Heather Tindall, spokeswoman for ERCOT.

A Texas state legislative oversight committee has called a Nov. 2 hearing to question the Texas Public Utility Commission and ERCOT about pilot program progress and problems with wholesale power market billing and charges.

Rep. Steven Wolens (D-Dallas), cochairman of the oversight committee, sent letters Tuesday to Tom Noel, CEO of ERCOT, and Max Yzaguirre, PUC chairman, with ten questions he wants answered on Nov. 2.

As of this week, out of a possible 250,000 eligible customers, only 84,076 have signed up with a competitive provider, according to the PUC web site. Despite the low participation and “glitches”, ERCOT says the market will open as planned in January.