At Texas Electric Firm, Users May Hold Key

Energy Future Holdings of Texas wants to shed $32 billion of debt.

As the largest electric company in Texas moves toward one of the biggest bankruptcies in U.S. history, its 1.6 million retail customers may hold the key to its future. …

Today TXU retains about 44% of the residential market share in areas it controlled before competition, according to consulting firm DEFG LLC, while Reliant is down to about 40%.

Lawmakers, regulators and environmental groups following EFH’s likely restructuring have focused on two of its businesses: Oncor, the company’s electricity-delivery unit, which is profitable and has been shielded from the debt problems of EFH’s other businesses; and Luminant, a power-generating unit saddled with old, unprofitable coal-fired power plants whose future is looking even more uncertain in the wake of the Obama administration’s new climate policy.

But some are now taking a new look at TXU Energy, the EFH unit that sells power to homes and businesses. While TXU has steadily lost customers since Texas began allowing consumers to shop around for electricity services a decade ago, it still generates more revenue than EFH’s other units. …

In most parts of Texas, customers can choose to buy electricity from any one of dozens of firms offering a range of different rate plans. TXU and the second-largest retail electric provider in Texas, Houston-based Reliant Energy, generally don’t try to compete solely on price.

Instead they have focused on other features, such as plans that take advantage of digital electric meters, which have been installed in most Texas homes and businesses to let customers monitor and manage their electricity use.

Competition from small, low-cost rivals has taken a toll since Texas opened its electricity markets to competition in 2002.

Today TXU retains about 44% of the residential market share in areas it controlled before competition, according to consulting firm DEFG LLC, while Reliant is down to about 40%. …

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