North Texans will start seeing an extra $5 or so on their monthly electricity bills as the region's regulated utility passes along hundreds of millions in added costs, including the expense of building transmission lines to bring wind power from West Texas to the Metroplex.
Oncor Electric Delivery, which operates the poles, wires and other equipment used to distribute power to residential and business users, was allowed to pass along the costs to users starting Sept. 1. The $423 million in expenses will add just over a half-cent per kilowatt-hour, or about $5 for a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month.
Texas allows Oncor and other regulated "transmission and distribution utilities" to start recovering the cost of new capital projects every six months rather than waiting for a full-blown rate case, which typically occurs every few years.
The state's Public Utility Commission will later review the appropriateness of the charges and can disallow expenses it deems not justified, said Terry Hadley, a commission spokesman in Austin.
"It's designed to reduce regulatory lag," Hadley said of the adjustment, called a transmission cost recovery factor. The adjustment can be made every six months, on March 1 and Sept. 1, and is passed along to customers by their retail electric providers.
The cost recovery factor that began Sept. 1 is the biggest since adjustments took effect in 2002.
Oncor spokesman Chris Schein said the adjustment is larger than usual for two reasons. First, the utility "had a lot of investment come on line." Second, summer was not as extreme as last year, so customers used less electricity and Oncor recovered less revenue than regulators allow.
Retail electric providers list the adjustment differently on bills.
In a notice to customers, StarTex Power said it will show the charge as a separate item, "ONCOR Rate Case -- kWh Charge."
Brilliant Energy said it has started breaking out the charges as a separate item on bills.
Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552