ERCOT reschedules Texas pilot program for third time

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas Inc., in a third delay, postponed until July 31 the opening of the retail electricity pilot program that was originally scheduled to begin June 1.

The pilot program had been rescheduled to start Friday, but problems with getting the independent system operator’s and the market participants’ computers linked continued to plague ERCOT. Market participants complained errors are being generated by ERCOT in both the retail and wholesale transactions.

Both sides have begun to blame the other for the delay in the Texas program, which many were touting as a national model. ERCOT CEO Tom Noel insisted the switch to a single control area could have gone forward as planned but said it was better to be on the “safe side” and delay a few more days.

“We heard from both sides that the participants need more time to get ready,” Noel said.

Market participants, on the other hand, complain ERCOT isn’t ready.

The city of Austin’s municipal energy group, Austin Energy, will participate in the wholesale market buying and selling power through ERCOT’s clearing system. Austin Energy filed comments with the Texas Public Utility Commission, complaining ERCOT’s settlement system is producing “inaccurate” results.

“At the time of this filing, Austin Energy had not yet received a single accurate settlement statement,” according to the documents. “Austin Energy received a statement for $90 million supposedly due to ERCOT, when, in fact, it owed nothing.”

Noel said 98% of the market is getting “acceptable” levels of accuracy for settlement. But he conceded ERCOT is having problems with accepting scheduling from the generators and marketers qualified to schedule power.

“It is more difficult for people to submit schedules day ahead than it should be,” said Noel. “We can improve on it.”

With respect to the retail market, Noel said ERCOT will be ready to switch customers from their current utilities to retailers. He said all customers who have selected an alternative supplier will be switched to their new provider by the end of August.

Retailers, including Shell Energy Services LLC, Houston, and New Power Co. questioned that assessments in documents filed Tuesday at the PUC. They requested time to present information to the PUC’s retail pilot committee meeting Thursday. In response, the PUC opened the committee meeting to the participants and the public.

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