(a) The system benefit fund is an account in the general revenue fund. Money in the account may be appropriated only for the purposes provided by this section or other law. Interest earned on the system benefit fund shall be credited to the fund. Section 403.095, Government Code, does not apply to the system benefit fund.
Terms Used In Texas Utilities Code 39.903
- Month: means a calendar month. See Texas Government Code 312.011
(b) The system benefit fund is financed by a nonbypassable fee set by the commission in an amount not to exceed 65 cents per megawatt hour. The system benefit fund fee is allocated to customers based on the amount of kilowatt hours used.
(c) The nonbypassable fee may not be imposed on the retail electric customers of a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative before the sixth month preceding the date on which the utility or cooperative implements customer choice. Money distributed from the system benefit fund to a municipally owned utility or an electric cooperative shall be proportional to the nonbypassable fee paid by the municipally owned utility or the electric cooperative, subject to the reimbursement provided by Subsection (i). On request by a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative, the commission shall reduce the nonbypassable fee imposed on retail electric customers served by the municipally owned utility or electric cooperative by an amount equal to the amount provided by the municipally owned utility or electric cooperative or its ratepayers for local low-income programs and local programs that educate customers about the retail electric market in a neutral and nonpromotional manner.
(d) The commission shall annually review and approve system benefit fund accounts, projected revenue requirements, and proposed nonbypassable fees.
(e) Money in the system benefit fund may be appropriated to provide funding solely for the following regulatory purposes, in the following order of priority:
(1) programs to:
(A) assist low-income electric customers by providing the 10 percent reduced rate prescribed by Subsection (h); and
(B) provide one-time bill payment assistance to electric customers who are or who have in their households one or more seriously ill or disabled low-income persons and who have been threatened with disconnection for nonpayment;
(2) customer education programs, administrative expenses incurred by the commission in implementing and administering this chapter, and expenses incurred by the office under this chapter;
(3) programs to assist low-income electric customers by providing the targeted energy efficiency programs described by Subsection (f)(2);
(4) programs to assist low-income electric customers by providing the 20 percent reduced rate prescribed by Subsection (h); and
(5) reimbursement to the commission and the Health and Human Services Commission for expenses incurred in the implementation and administration of an integrated eligibility process created under Section 17.007 for customer service discounts relating to retail electric service, including outreach expenses the commission determines are reasonable and necessary.
(f) Notwithstanding Section 39.106(b), the commission shall adopt rules regarding programs to assist low-income electric customers on the introduction of customer choice. The programs may not be targeted to areas served by municipally owned utilities or electric cooperatives that have not adopted customer choice. The programs shall include:
(1) reduced electric rates as provided by Subsections (h)-(l); and
(2) targeted energy efficiency programs to be administered by the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs in coordination with existing weatherization programs.
(g) Until customer choice is introduced in a power region, an electric utility may not reduce, in any manner, programs already offered to assist low-income electric customers.
(h) The commission shall adopt rules for a retail electric provider to determine a reduced rate for eligible customers to be discounted off the standard retail service package as approved by the commission under Section 39.106, or the price to beat established by Section 39.202, whichever is lower. Municipally owned utilities and electric cooperatives shall establish a reduced rate for eligible customers to be discounted off the standard retail service package established under Section 40.053 or 41.053, as appropriate. The reduced rate for a retail electric provider shall result in a total charge that is at least 10 percent and, if sufficient money in the system benefit fund is available, up to 20 percent, lower than the amount the customer would otherwise be charged. To the extent the system benefit fund is insufficient to fund the initial 10 percent rate reduction, the commission may increase the fee to an amount not more than 65 cents per megawatt hour, as provided by Subsection (b). If the fee is set at 65 cents per megawatt hour or if the commission determines that appropriations are insufficient to fund the 10 percent rate reduction, the commission may reduce the rate reduction to less than 10 percent. For a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative, the reduced rate shall be equal to an amount that can be fully funded by that portion of the nonbypassable fee proceeds paid by the municipally owned utility or electric cooperative that is allocated to the utility or cooperative by the commission under Subsection (e) for programs for low-income customers of the utility or cooperative. The reduced rate for municipally owned utilities and electric cooperatives under this section is in addition to any rate reduction that may result from local programs for low-income customers of the municipally owned utilities or electric cooperatives.
(i) A retail electric provider, municipally owned utility, or electric cooperative seeking reimbursement from the system benefit fund may not charge an eligible low-income customer a rate higher than the appropriate rate determined under Subsection (h). A retail electric provider not subject to the price to beat, or a municipally owned utility or electric cooperative subject to the nonbypassable fee under Subsection (c), shall be reimbursed from the system benefit fund for the difference between the reduced rate and the rate established under Section 39.106 or, as appropriate, the rate established under Section 40.053 or 41.053. A retail electric provider who is subject to the price to beat shall be reimbursed from the system benefit fund for the difference between the reduced rate and the price to beat. The commission shall adopt rules providing for the reimbursement.
(j) The commission shall adopt rules providing for methods of enrolling customers eligible to receive reduced rates under Subsection (h). The rules must provide for automatic enrollment as one enrollment option. The Texas Department of Human Services, on request of the commission, shall assist in the adoption and implementation of these rules. The commission and the Texas Department of Human Services shall enter into a memorandum of understanding establishing the respective duties of the commission and the department in relation to the automatic enrollment.
(j-1) The commission shall adopt rules governing the bill payment assistance program provided under Subsection (e)(1)(B). The rules must provide that a customer is eligible to receive the assistance only if the assistance is necessary to prevent the disconnection of service for nonpayment of bills and the electric customer is or has in the customer’s household one or more seriously ill or disabled low-income persons whose health or safety may be injured by the disconnection. The commission may prescribe the documentation necessary to demonstrate eligibility for the assistance and may establish additional eligibility criteria. The Health and Human Services Commission, on request of the commission, shall assist in the adoption and implementation of these rules.
(k) A retail electric provider is prohibited from charging the customer a fee for participation in the reduced rate program.
(l) For the purposes of this section, a “low-income electric customer” is an electric customer:
(1) whose household income is not more than 125 percent of the federal poverty guidelines; or
(2) who receives food stamps from the Texas Department of Human Services or medical assistance from a state agency administering a part of the medical assistance program.
(m) This section expires September 1, 2017.
For expiration of this section, see Subsection (m).