Utility Companies Plan Rate Increases

10-4-05 - Many Texans will see higher utility bills during the next few months as electric and natural gas suppliers increase their rates.

In Dallas, TXU is asking state regulators for an increase. Austin Electric will ask for one in January. And in the Houston area, Reliant Energy and CenterPoint Energy have planned increases.

First Choice Power, the electric company for communities from Friendswood to La Marque, also filed with state regulators to increase its fuel factor next month, which would make bills rise by 20.8 percent.

A typical Reliant Energy customer can expect to see bills increase by 14 percent beginning at the end of October. Another increase is scheduled Jan. 1.

Reliant could have increased prices earlier, but it reached an agreement with the Texas Public Utility Commission to implement the increases in two phases, said Jim Robb, vice president of retail marketing.

"We have delayed this request as long as possible to keep prices stable during the hot summer months," Robb said.

Other retail electric providers in Houston may increase their rates to follow Reliant.

CenterPoint Energy customers will see natural gas bills increase for the second time in two months, this time by 11 percent.

The increases are being blamed on natural gas prices, which have climbed 98 percent since early July.

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita made a tight natural gas supply situation worse with the destruction or isolation of key production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico.

As of Monday, almost 80 percent of the Gulf's natural gas production remained off-line.

And Texas' electricity markets make electric bills sensitive to increases in natural gas costs.