Energy & Environment

Should Millions In ‘Fake Profits’ Be Returned To Texas Electricity Market?

Previously we told you how a “mistake” may have caused electricity costs in Texas to shoot-up some $50 million by one estimate. Here’s a response from the group that manages the state’s power market.

We’d told about an energy trader named Adam Sinn. He said his company and others made what he called “fake profits” last month when some bad data led traders to believe there was going to be a shortage of electricity for a few hours on the state’s wholesale electricity market.

But the supply never changed because the data was wrong. Yet prices skyrocketed and power companies pocketed big profits, Sinn told us.

“We calculated this mistake was somewhere in the ballpark of $50-plus million,” Sinn said.

He and others knowledgeable about the state’s rules for selling electricity said those “protocols” require the so-called “fake profits” to be returned. But now, ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas which manages the state’s power market, tells us no, the money does not have to be returned.

“We don’t have procedures in place for changing those prices because there would be too many assumptions we’d have to make as to what would have affected prices at that time to know what the correct price would have been,” said ERCOT spokesperson Robbie Searcy.

Searcy told News 88.7 there is a provision that would allow for a “price correction” if the state utility regulator, the Public Utility Commission, decides to take up the matter. The PUC tells us it is looking into it.

ERCOT said they could not put a dollar figure on what the mistake cost, money that ultimately comes from electricity customers statewide.

This story originally aired and was posted online on June 25, 2015.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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