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Energy & Environment

Challenged By Houston, CenterPoint Cuts Deal To Reduce Proposed Rate Hike

Last month, we told you how CenterPoint Energy wanted to add about $26 dollars to your annual electricity bill and how the City of Houston was preparing to fight the utility. Now, there’s word of a settlement.

Centerpoint power station downtown Houston
Centerpoint power station downtown Houston

Earlier this week, Houston and neighboring municipalities were set to have a showdown with CenterPoint Energy. But now, the two sides have reached an agreement.

According to a document filed with the Public Utility Commission, CenterPoint Energy will reduce its top demand for a cost increase. It had first asked for an additional annual increase $49 million in 2016 and $60 million in 2017, but has now reduced the request to $45 million and $49 million.

CenterPoint says it needs the extra money to install more power lines and poles to keep up with all the growth in Greater Houston.

The $49 million rate hike isn't much when divvied up among CenterPoint's 2 million customers, just about $20 bucks more a year.

But consumer advocates say these sorts of seemingly small increases are adding up, year and after year. The advocates point out that in 2014, state regulators said CenterPoint was making so much money it had what was called "excess revenue."

What's more, asking for rate hikes is now easier. In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed a new law that allows utilities to use a fast-track process to get approval from the Public Utility Commission to raise rate instead of having to file a lengthy rate-review case. Critics at the time predicted it would make it too easy for utilities to charge more.

CenterPoint didn't respond to an email requesting comment. The Public Utility Commission will have to give its approval to the agreement.

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