Texas ranks at the top of 41 states for the modernization of its electricity grid. This is according to a report released by a group called Gridwise Alliance in conjunction with the Smart Grid Policy Center. The report assigned a Grid Modernization Index score (GMI) to 41 states and the District of Columbia. The GMI value for Texas was 83, putting it alongside California at the top of the 41 states included in the report. Nine states were not included in the analysis.
The Grid Modernization Index consists of three components.
- Policy – State policies and regulatory mechanisms that facilitate grid investment
- Customer Engagement – Investments throughout the state in customer enabling technologies and capabilities
- Grid Operations – Investments throughout the state in grid enhancement technologies and capabilities.
In addition to a top overall score, Texas obtained top scores in the Policy and Customer Engagement categories. The Policy score includes components such as the presence of a grid modernization strategy and the presence of Renewable Portfolio standards.
Texas obtained a top score for Customer Engagement which is a metric that includes such things as the availability of dynamic pricing plans or rates that leverage smart grid technology. In recent years, Texas has seen a proliferation of innovate products made available because of smart grid technology. These products include Free Nights plans, Free Weekend plans, and prepaid electric plans that rely on smart meter technology.
The Texas electricity marketplace is substantially different from other states in a number of ways. The Texas grid is independent from the other major electric grids that serve North America. Texas is also by far the largest deregulated electricity marketplace in the U.S. The authors of the report point to a positive correlation between a state’s GMI score and the availability of retail choice within the state.
Despite Texas’ strong showing in this report, significant challenges remain for the state’s electricity grid. Capacity has been a concern for a number of years and continues to be so. Each summer there is concern that the state’s electricity producers will not be able to supply enough power to meet demand; especially in the event of an unusually hot heat wave. Such concerns have led to, as yet, unsuccessful attempts to convert the state to a Capacity Market for electricity. Under such a scheme, producers are paid simply to build additional capacity and have it available if needed to meet peak demand. Such a move would inevitably lead to higher electricity rates.
According to numbers published by the Energy Information Administration, the average Texan pays 11.59 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. This average, however, is not indicative of what a motivated consumer who is willing to shop and compare rates should expect to pay. For example; as of this writing, 4ChangeEnergy is currently offering a rate of 9.0 cents for a 12 month electricity plan in the Houston area. Month-to-month rates are even lower. Reliant energy, for example, is currently offing a rate of 7.9 cents in the Dallas area.