Meeting the Texas Energy Demand

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A State District judge blocked Governor Rick Perry's executive order. The ruling directs state hearing administrators to reconsider the schedule of environmental hearings. TXU Officials say because of projected population growth in Texas, they need to build the plants as soon as possible.

It's as simple as flippiing on the light switch, made possible by electricity. But it comes with a steep price tag.

"Sometimes their utility bills this year have been 400 to 500 dollars a month. They don't receive much monthly so it adds up," said Donnie Boyd, a utility assistance supervisor at the Texoma Council of Governments.

TCOG helps provide the elderly and handicapped with their utility bills through grant assistance.

"The clients seem to have outstanding utility bills. They keep getting higher, which prevents us from helping even more people," Boyd said.

Energy experts say deregulation among electric companies didn't take off as planned. Hurricans Katrina and Rita didn't help either, destroying many off shore rigs and increasing the price of natural gas.

"We have this pressing demand for more electricity in our state," said Tom Kleckner, a TXU spokesperson. "It's fueled by the people that are expected to move in into the state over the next 5-10 years."

Census projections estimate about six million people will move into Texas over the next decade. TXU officals say coal is the most cost effective option to provide reliable power. This could translate into lower rates.

Opponents aren't buying that argument, saying rates are high now, even though some electric plants already burn coal.

"If they can build these plants now and charge natural gas prices for coal-based electricity, they're going to make a lot of money," Greeff said.

TXU reported a record-breaking third quarter earnings in 2006, setting a billion dollars in profits after hot summer months. Profits aren't directly related to customer prices.

TXU officials say it's a tough balance between customers, shareholders, and employees. They hope a large coal reserve in the US will diversify the fuel source and end an over-reliance on expensive natural gas.

"The United States sits on one of the largest reserves of coal in the world," Kleckner said. "We established there's about 200-300 years worth of coal reserves in the US."

ERCOT, the organization that manages Texas electricity, says something must be done to meet energy needs by 2009. Otherwise Texans may be left in the dark.

Consumers also hope for some relief as the hottest months in Texas approach us.

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