UPDATE: This measure failed to make it out of the House committee.
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As utility bills continue to climb across the Sooner State, one Oklahoma representative says he wants to add a bit of competition into the market.
Rep. Ryan Martinez, (R-Edmond,) introduced House Bill 1602, which would create the Oklahoma Electric Choice and Competition Law.
The measure would give commercial and industrial customers currently in OG&E and PSO territories the option of purchasing electricity from other vendors.
If passed, commercial customers could switch providers in 2025, while residential customers would have to wait until 2027.
Organizers say the bill only impacts current OG&E and PSO customers. Businesses and residents served by rural cooperatives are not affected.
Officials say OG&E and PSO would continue to service power lines and be compensated by customers for their work.
The measure also directs the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to establish a Customer Bill of Rights, to create a licensing process for electric suppliers entering the market, and prevent cost shifting from one class of customer to another during the transition.
“Our current system gives OG&E and PSO a status as ‘monopoly middlemen’ acting as vendors selling electricity from the Southwest Power Pool,” said AERO Executive Director Mike Boyd. “There is no public benefit from gifting them that monopoly status. It does not reduce costs or provide more reliable power. What our monopoly system has done, for many years, is make a small group of investors wealthy at the expense of Oklahoma families and businesses. It’s time for a change. The era of monopolies should end.”
However, not everyone is on board with the move.
“The legislation is backed by a local group called the Alliance for Electrical Restructuring in Oklahoma (AERO) and promotes the financial interests of third-party gas marketers who are funding the effort because they stand to profit from decreasing Oklahoma’s regulation of the electric market and uncoupling transmission and distribution. In seeking to dismantle our state’s cost and reliability protections for electricity consumers, these niche interests make plain they want all of the rewards without any of the operating responsibilities and related risks. As legislators consider this most recent proposal, we should learn from the failed experiments by other states, including Texas, California and New York. Residents in these deregulated states have lived through a volatility reflected not only in unpredictable costs but in life-threatening protracted outages. These deregulated markets receive less oversight on the investments utilities make to the grid, less oversight on rates and frequently see higher wholesale prices in order to enable profits to new energy suppliers, who operate independently of utility companies,” said Jeff Cloud, Executive Director of Alliance for Secure Energy.
If approved, the measure would go into effect on Nov. 1.
Recently, OG&E has been in the news following a series of rate hikes.
Customers told KFOR they didn’t fully understand why the rate hikes continue, and some even said they wished they could switch to another provider.
“It’s a monopoly,” Alaina Tyler said. “I don’t have any option. I can’t go and shop my competitors or try to come up with a different company to go with. I have to just obey what is assessed to us.”
OG&E told KFOR that the average residential customer’s bill increased by $23.25 per month in 2022.
“We know that rising inflation has increased the cost of many household items, including food and fuel, and is creating a financial pinch for many of our customers,” their statement to us read. “No one – including OG&E – wants to see higher electric bills and we know our customers depend on us for reliable electricity to power their homes and businesses. We are committed to delivering reliable and resilient electric service at the lowest rates possible.”