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May 24, 2019

Texas utility commission assesses $285K in administrative penalties

by Kelso King, Grid Monitor
Source – Grid Monitor
Posted 05/23/2019

The Texas PUCT assessed administrative penalties against several companies for various violations of laws, rules and protocols. Ambit was fined $160K for violations related to customer protections, Oncor was fined $75K for failure to comply with ERCOT telemetry standards, and LCRA was fined $50K for failure to meet ERCOT Responsive Reserve Service obligations.

Ambit

In the first six months of 2017, approximately 8,695 customers were moved by Ambit to the Ambit Standard Plan following disconnections. At the time Ambit provided this information to Commission Staff, the rate of the Ambit Standard Plan was $0.174 per kWh. Some customers experienced a rate increase of almost $0.10 per kWh when Ambit placed the customer on the Ambit Standard Plan.

PUCT staff investigated Ambit Texas, LLC, a Retail Electric Provider, for violations related to Protection of Residential Electric Service Applicants and Customers; Requirements for Submitting Charges); Information Disclosures to Residential and Small Commercial Customers; and Unauthorized Charges. Staff contended that:

• Ambit did not thoroughly inform customers about the Ambit Standard Plan;

• customers’ Terms of Service (TOS) did not conspicuously contain a statement describing the conditions under which the contract could change;

• reinstating customers exclusively on the Ambit Standard Plan after two disconnections for non-payment is using the customer’s payment habits, and as a result, credit history as the basis for determining the customer’s price;

• Ambit changed the term of the contract by unilaterally terminating it and then enrolling the customer onto a new plan without first entering into a new contract; and

• Ambit did not uniformly remove the charges for the Ambit Standard Plan or provide refunds or credits to all customers within 45 days.

Ambit agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $160,000.

Oncor

Staff investigated Oncor for violations related to ERCOT telemetry standards. On May 4, 2017, Oncor performed routine database updates to add additional elements to its transmission management system (TMS). The updates exceeded a previously unknown hardcoded limit on the number of elements allowed by the software, causing a buffer to fill up on Oncor’s servers.  ERCOT began to receive incorrect telemetry data from Oncor as a result of the buffer issues. As a result, Oncor failed to meet the required metrics for the second quarter of 2017.

Oncor agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $75,000.

LCRA

PUCT staff investigated of Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) for alleged violation related to Duties of Market Entities and ERCOT nodal protocols. Staff alleged LCRA failed to reserve and maintain sufficient frequency responsive capacity to meet all of its Responsive Reserve Service (RRS) obligations on two of its generation resources during two operating hours. LCRA agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $50,000.

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