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Commission approves CenterPoint fuel cost recovery without proposed "termination" fee

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) today issued an order approving a plan for paying the natural gas costs incurred by CenterPoint Energy during the February 2021 winter storm. However, the Commission said “No” to a proposal that would have imposed a fee on CenterPoint customers who terminate their natural gas service to switch to a different fuel source.

“While the law and the record in this case support the Order’s provisions to lower the monthly charge CenterPoint customers will pay because of the storm, we weren’t persuaded to impose a termination fee,” said OCC Chairman Dana Murphy.

Murphy said today’s order was the result of an exhaustive review of the evidence, testimony, and proposals in the case and will allow the unprecedented costs from the storm to be recovered over a longer period of time, rather than being billed all at once.

“This means that the monthly impact to ratepayers will be far less than it otherwise would have been,” Murphy said. “It’s estimated that the natural gas costs owed would have cost an average residential CenterPoint customer $538.07 if billed all at once, and $44.61 if billed over 12 months.

Securitization allows the cost to be spread out up to 15 years, dropping the monthly payment to an estimated $4.36 for the average residential customer.”

Murphy noted the February winter storm caused an unprecedented increase in natural gas prices in a market outside of the OCC’s control.

“The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Oklahoma Attorney General are investigating what happened to the market, and if something is found that could lower costs to ratepayers, that will be instituted,” Murphy said. “Today’s decision also orders the company to credit to customers any proceeds, government grants or other funding sources CenterPoint receives for the costs of the February 2021 winter weather event.”

Commissioner Todd Hiett said the fuel costs in question in today’s order have been carefully scrutinized and audited.

“The Commission’s Public Utility Division conducted a full audit on those costs to determine that CenterPoint did not make a profit on the fuel costs to be recovered and that other requirements were met.

“While the legislature’s development and approval of the securitization law after the winter storm lessens the blow for customers, there is no getting around the fact that bills are going to increase,” Hiett continued.

“It is important to remember that these costs were incurred to keep life and property intact during a terrible winter storm. However, at the same time we must continue the effort to explore ways to lessen the chances that this could happen again.”

A chart comparing CenterPoint's securitized monthly charge with other methods is attached.

Last Modified on Feb 11, 2022