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Another Texas power company facing closure

The fourth Texas electric company in two weeks is showing signs of failing, although for the moment its customers won't get involuntarily dumped to a high-cost default provider, officials said Thursday.

The company, Houston-based Riverway Power, has filed for bankruptcy, according to the Public Utility Commission. Operators of the Texas power grid were preparing to shift its customers to the high-cost default electric company, but then stopped that process after Riverway came under the court’s bankruptcy protection.

A spokesman for the company could not be immediately reached.

PUC spokesman Terry Hadley noted that Riverway is the same company that the PUC earlier sanctioned for allegedly reneging on fixed-rate deals with its customers.

In the past two weeks, three other companies have failed to meet financial obligations to the grid operator and so have had their customers switched to high-cost default providers. Those companies include Bridgeport-based PreBuy Electric, Houston-based National Power and Denton-based Hwy 3 MHP, which also does business as Etricity.

As a result, more than 35,000 customers have been switched to high-cost default providers or other electric companies. At least 9,000 of those customers were from North Texas. Some customers who get switched to the high-cost default provider could see their costs double.

Also in recent days, prices on the wholesale electricity market have spiked to some of the highest levels in memory. Some analysts are blaming those spikes and skyrocketing wholesale prices for the recent tumult in the retail electric market.

The operator of the Texas power grid, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, held a technical meeting Thursday to consider engineering changes to address the price spikes.