LUBBOCK, Texas — City leaders met for their fourth major discussion regarding a proposal to deregulate Lubbock’s electric market Tuesday. The meeting marked the latest steps in a years long process that began when 70 percent of the Lubbock market migrated to the ERCOT grid in May 2021.
The city is now considering a proposal to open the market to competition once the remaining 30 percent of residents migrate into ERCOT in May 2023. But city leaders are split on how exactly to proceed.
“Look at the rest of our state and how other cities have enjoyed deregulation,” District 3 Councilman Jeff Griffith said. “Competitive market is everything we’ve ever wanted. It is the American way.”
Should Lubbock deregulate, we would join cities like Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Abilene with competitive markets. But we would be the first city in Texas history to voluntarily opt into the retail space.
Griffith joined with Mayor Dan Pope and District 4 Councilman Steve Massengale in voicing their ardent support for the proposal today.
“I think the vast majority of our citizens want competition. I know our business market wants competition,” Mayor Pope said.
Other city leaders, however, expressed more hesitation.
Councilwoman Latrelle Joy and Councilman Randy Christian worried about a lack of public engagement in the process, stressing the need for more public education about the plan before they can be sure many residents support it. Councilwoman Joy invoked the memory of November’s road bond election, in which a decisive majority of voters turned down the council’s proposal.
“I’m looking around the room today, and I don’t see any citizens. There may be some listening. I doubt it,” Joy said. “Look at your last elections. We don’t get good participation.”
“If there’s some individuals that would like to speak to any of the council members in regard to their thoughts about opting in that’s perfectly fine, and I encourage it,” Councilman Christian said.
LP&L spokesman Matt Rose suggested the city conducted a scientific survey of 800 residents to gauge public support, but Christian and Joy worried that may be too little too late.
While no official decisions were made regarding deregulation today, the Electric Utility Board did vote against deeming LP&L the “provider of last resort.” In other words, LP&L would not be the backup power provider should another company be unable to provide power in a deregulated market. If the city does approve the retail plan, they would designate another provider to take that role.
Rose said getting that word out is a top priority, especially due to the gravity of the decision that looms before them. Should the Electric Utility Board and City Council choose to deregulate, that decision is irrevocable.
“This is a big project. It is changing the way that folks have received their electricity for over 100 years,” Rose said. “We want to make sure the public is aware of this.”
The Electric Utility Board aims to cast its final vote on deregulation February 15. Should they approve it, the decision will then go to the City Council at their next meeting following February 15. Rose said LP&L plans to host an open house before those votes to encourage the public to voice their concerns and suggestions.
“What we want our customers to know… [is] this competitive market is not the same as what we had here up until 2010,” Rose said. “It is a larger animal. It requires a lot of the customer. There will be a lot of communication and education that goes into it.”