How to Manage Winter Moratoriums in Texas
As the chill of winter descends upon the Lone Star State, Texans are well-acquainted with the occasional plummeting temperatures that can make heating a home a necessity. And several residents still remember winter storm Uri, where catastrophic winter conditions caused blackouts across much of the state.
Like many other regions, Texas enforces a winter moratorium to ensure residents do not find themselves without the essential need for heating during the coldest months. But what exactly is a winter moratorium? In essence, it’s a protective measure designed to shield vulnerable households from disconnection of their energy services during the harshest months of the year. This vital safeguard ensures families, especially those facing financial hardships, are not left out in the cold when they need warmth and electricity the most.
Let’s explore who determines the rules of winter moratorium in Texas, how it operates, and discuss steps that customers can take to prevent an electricity shutoff.
Who determines the rules of a winter moratorium?
Every state has a public utilities commission or other official entity with a similar name that regulates electric, gas, telecommunications, water and waste water utilities. As a general rule, utility commissions are charged with assuring that utilities provide reasonable, adequate, and efficient service to customers at just and fair prices (source).
In Texas, that agency is known as the PUCT, or the Public Utility Commission of Texas. Besides ensuring electricity providers operate fairly and adhere to market rules to maintain a stable and competitive electricity market, they have a role in protecting consumer rights, including investigating and resolving complaints from utility customers and advocating for their interests in utility rate cases and rulemaking processes.
The PUCT also has the authority to establish rules and policies that guide the operation of utility services in the state, which include setting rates and ensuring that utilities comply with regulations.
In the energy sector, the PUCT regulates the electricity market in Texas, including overseeing the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which manages the state’s electricity grid. The commission has played a significant role in promoting competition among electricity providers and ensuring a competitive retail market for consumers.
Overall, the Public Utility Commission of Texas serves as a regulatory body that strives to balance the interests of utility providers and consumers. It plays a critical role in maintaining the integrity of essential services in Texas and safeguarding the rights of the state’s residents.
How Does a Winter Moratorium Operate?
A winter moratorium aims to protect vulnerable consumers from the disconnection of essential utility services during the cold winter months, typically when the risk of health and safety issues due to lack of heating or electricity is at its highest.
In Texas, there is no specific time frame to stop electricity disconnections during the winter months. However, there are rules the PUCT has in place to keep residential power during severe weather conditions. Chapter 25 states an electric utility cannot disconnect a customer anywhere in its service territory on a day when the previous day’s highest temperature did not exceed 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature is predicted to remain at or below that level for the next 24 hours, according to the nearest National Weather Service (NWS) reports (source).
“Protecting the health and safety of Texans is the Commission’s top priority at all times,” said the PUCT’s Chief Press Officer Ellie Breed. “These rules prohibit electric providers from disconnecting service to any customer during extreme weather events. Moratoriums triggered by extreme weather conditions that prohibit service disconnections are currently in place in counties across the state and will continue in effect as extreme conditions warrant.”
Steps You Can Take to Prevent a Shutoff
It’s important to know the Electricity Shut of Laws in Texas so that you can take action if needed during financial duress or if you are a vulnerable customer.
Here are two ways to avoid a shut off during extreme weather:
- Ask for a Payment Plan
If you’re facing difficulties paying your electricity bills and are at risk of disconnection, one of the first steps you can take is to contact your retail electric provider and request a deferred payment plan. According to Andrew Barlow, the director of external affairs at the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), this action triggers additional protections. PUC rules prohibit electric providers from disconnecting service if a customer is honoring a payment plan. Initiating a conversation with your provider about a deferred payment plan can help keep your power on.
PUC rules stipulate that the initial payment required by the plan cannot be more than half the amount due, and customers must be given at least five billing cycles to pay the remaining balance.
NOTE: Providers may place a switch-hold on customer accounts while on a payment plan, preventing you from switching electricity providers during this period.
“If someone is experiencing financial challenges related to higher-than-normal energy bills, they should contact their provider and call 211 for information on assistance or resources available to them in their area,” Press Officer Ellie Breed has said in a previous interview (Source).
- Critical Care Residential Customers
Customers with critical care or chronic condition designations also have additional protections. If you or someone in your household relies on electric-powered medical devices or would be significantly impacted by the loss of heating or cooling due to a medical condition, you can apply for this designation. The application, along with a doctor’s note, can be submitted to your transmission and delivery utility, such as Oncor. If you provide the application to your retail electric provider, they are required to forward it to the transmission and delivery utility.
Note: You can find the critical care or chronic care designation application and instructions here.
Vulnerable customers may include low-income households, elderly individuals, individuals with medical conditions that require electric-powered equipment, or households with young children. The definition of who qualifies as “vulnerable” can vary, and it’s usually outlined in the regulations, so make sure to check if you are eligible.
These protections and assistance options are designed to ensure that you have access to essential electricity services, even during challenging times. Be sure to take advantage of these resources to safeguard your power supply and well-being during the winter moratorium.
To start saving now on your winter bill, check out our Prepaid Electricity Plans.
As winter approaches in the Lone Star State, Texans are no strangers to the occasional icy grip of plummeting temperatures. The memory of the catastrophic winter storm Uri, which left many without power, still lingers in the minds of its residents. In response to such challenges, Texas enforces a winter moratorium based on weather conditions.
While there is no specific fixed time frame for the moratorium, PUCT rules dictate that service providers must refrain from disconnecting power during extreme weather conditions. These rules are in place to protect the health and safety of Texans. By understanding the rules, seeking assistance, and being proactive, you can ensure your electricity remains accessible when most needed.
What our customers are saying
See why our power customers say we're the best electricity provider in Texas!
Affordable and easy to make payments
I was worried about getting electricity for my home through a prepaid company. I was calling around to see different rates then going through all the hassle of credit checks while dropping points each…
I have been with this company for several years and have been very happy since. Even when I moved, they made my usually stressful situation very easy and carefree. I recommend them to everyone that I…
Long term customer
I have enjoyed the service for 2 years now. In the beginning this service was planned to be temporary but with the service being so effective for me i decided to keep it for the long haul. I’m a happy customer.