The Public Utility Commission of Texas has urged the Texas Supreme Court to overturn a court ruling that found the agency overstepped its authority by allowing power prices to soar during the state's deadly 2021 winter storm.
The PUCT defended its actions during the storm in an appeal filed Thursday, saying that regulators made split-second decisions during a life-or- death situation that may not be popular, but were necessary to address a market failure.
The recent ruling against them has thrown Texas s electricity and associated markets into confusion, according to the attorneys for the regulators. A state appeals court shocked the Texas power market last week by siding with power generator Vistra Corp., which claimed in a lawsuit that PUCT had exceeded its authority by pinning prices to $9,000 per-megawatt-hour for days during the February 2021 storm, resulting in billions of dollars in overcharges to consumers. The commission's decision reversed a pair of orders.
The appeals court ruling should be overturned because the orders at issue expired years ago, so they can not be invalidated, according to lawyers for the PUCT. They said that Vistra and other companies are already trying to unwind the pricing decisions in separate administrative proceedings.
The lawyers argued that the court took issue with the agency's decisions but did not identify what a correct course of action would have been under the circumstances.
The stakes are high, attorneys for the PUCT said in the filing. Billions of dollars could be involved in the matter. So is the commission's ability to react quickly in emergency situations to save lives by minimizing blackouts and preventing system-wide collapse. During the storm, energy costs on the state grid totaled $56 billion and could be reallocated if the appeals court decision is upheld. Electricity prices would have averaged $2,404 a megawatt-hour, or 73% lower if the PUCT hadn't set the price, according to a report by Vistra.
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