It’s Standing-Room-Only today at the Senate Business and Commerce meeting today where Chairman Troy Fraser has the undivided attention of the state’s electric power industry. Fraser has long been on the record complaining that incumbent utilities have thwarted competition by hogging too large of a market share and this morning he laid out a package of bills aimed at resolving the problem. Fraser wants to limit to 20 percent the market share of power any utility can have in any region of the state, but today he added a twist: any utility that builds an IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle, or “clean” coal) plant will be allowed to exclude the plant’s generation from that cap.
“I’m inserting myself in the permitting process,” Fraser freely acknowledged, referring to the controversial request for coal plant construction permits pending before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. “Texas is a leader in the electric utility industry and I think Texas should also be a leader in developing new technology.”
His proposal isn’t likely to be greeted with much enthusiasm from TXU, which has a $10 billion plan to build 11 coal plants — not using IGCC technology — over the next five years. As TEXAS MONTHLY reported in its January issue, TXU officials argue that the IGCC technology simple doesn’t work with the Western coal available in Texas.
Not that Fraser is especially eager to make nice with TXU. He’s peeved — at all the electrics but particularly TXU — for using a temporary spike in gas prices to increase retail prices that have remained high while gas prices have fallen. Of TXU chairman John Wilder, Fraser said, “He’s abusing his customers. The only ones who benefit (from TXU’s pricing strategy) are the stockholders. That’s not my obligation.”