Understanding Energy Deregulation in Texas: A Comprehensive Guide

Understanding energy deregulation is key for anyone using electricity in Texas. It doesn’t matter if you own a home, rent, or run a business – knowing how energy deregulation works can help you make smart choices about your energy provider and plan. This guide will go over the basics of energy deregulation, look at its advantages and disadvantages, and answer common questions. The goal? To help you navigate the Texas energy market with confidence. Let’s dive in.

Key Facts about Energy Deregulation

What is energy deregulation?

In simple terms, energy deregulation is when the government steps back and allows the market to drive competition among providers. The goal? Lower prices, more plan options, and better customer service for consumers.

How does energy deregulation work in practice?

Energy deregulation works by separating the generation, transmission, and retail sale of electricity. This enables you to choose your energy supplier from various competing companies so that you can find a plan that suits your needs and budget.

Are there any benefits to energy deregulation?

Definitely! Energy deregulation makes competition stronger. This can mean lower prices, more plan choices, and better service for you. Plus, it can lead to more innovation and investment in the energy industry.

What are the risks in a deregulated energy market?

As with any market, there are some risks. In a deregulated energy market, you might face price volatility, misleading marketing practices, and less protection for consumers. In some cases, deregulation can even cause infrastructure issues, as with Texas’ 2021 Winter Storm crisis.

When did Texas become a deregulated energy market?

Texas became a deregulated energy market in stages, starting with the passage of Senate Bill 373 in 1995, followed by Senate Bill 7 in 1999 and the granting of independence to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) in 2002. These legislative milestones allowed for the separation of electricity generation and distribution, fostering competition and giving customers the freedom to choose their energy suppliers.

What is the Power to Choose?

The “power to choose” is Texans’ right to choose their own energy providers in the deregulated ERCOT market. More specifically, Power to Choose is an online resource provided by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT). It allows customers to compare energy plans and providers in their area to help them make the best choice.

Which president initiated energy deregulation?

Energy deregulation in the United States began under President Jimmy Carter, who set things in motion with the National Energy Act in 1978.

Which states have deregulated energy markets?

As of 2021, about 17 states and the District of Columbia have embraced some form of deregulated energy markets. This includes the states of California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware, Texas, Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

How is Texas’ electricity market different from other deregulated states?

Texas has a more comprehensive deregulation process, with no government-backed utility, a separation of the operations between the energy producers, retail providers, and the grid operators. Because of this, Texas’ market has far more retail providers to choose from, and a wider range of plans. Additionally, Texas has its very own energy-governing agencies (ERCOT and PUCT), and a unique electricity market since it’s disconnected from other intercontinental grids.

A Brief Timeline of Energy Deregulation in America

Let’s delve into the evolution of energy deregulation in the U.S., beginning from the initial state of the energy market:

  • Early Days: The energy market is dominated by vertically integrated utilities, handling everything from generating electricity to delivering it to customers. The infancy of electricity generation was a turbulent period of rapid advancements and competing standards. Energy utilities were not regulated by any central authorities. Because the multiple companies producing and transmitting energy handled distribution in different ways, the lack of uniformity caused problems for consumers.

  • 1920s: The Federal Power Commission (FPC) is established by Congress to coordinate federal hydropower development.

  • 1930s: To solve the issues of competing standards and unsavory business practices from the large utilities that had become de facto monopolies (by the 1930s three utilities controlled nearly half the industry in the US!) the US government passes the Public Utility Holding Company Act (PUHCA), introducing regulation to the growing energy industry. In 1935 the FPC becomes an independent regulatory agency.

  • 1960s: The Great Northeast Blackout of 1965 leaves over 30 million people in the US and parts of Canada without electricity. Recognizing the need to improve before further regulation, the electric utilities industry created the North American Electric Reliability Council to address the issues and improve energy distribution reliability. However, it also allowed regional monopolies to form, and the lack of competition sometimes resulted in higher energy costs and no reason to better serve customers.

  • Early 1970s: The energy crises of the 1970s spiked prices higher, led largely by oil costs from OPEC, and the need for change in the energy industry became clear. To ween America off this expensive energy source, utilities begin developing power plants for other energy sources, and Americans are stuck with the costs. This challenging period highlights the drawbacks of the market, prompting the government to explore ways to boost competition and efficiency.

  • 1977: In response to the oil crisis, Congress forms the Department of Energy to consolidate energy-related agencies into a unified agency. The FPC is renamed to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and retains its independence within the DOE.

  • 1978: President Jimmy Carter signs the National Energy Act, which includes the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA). This groundbreaking legislation aims to promote energy conservation and reduce our reliance on foreign oil. It also gives a much-needed push to alternative energy sources by requiring utility companies to purchase power from qualifying producers at competitive rates.

  • 1992: The Energy Policy Act is passed, taking deregulation a step further. This act breaks down legal barriers in the electricity market and enables independent power producers to access transmission lines, setting the stage for retail competition.

  • 1990s: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issues Orders 888 and 2000, promoting open access to transmission lines and encouraging the creation of Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs). In 1995, Texas opens a wholesale energy market, allowing independent power producers to sell electricity directly to utility companies.

  • 2002: Texas transforms into a deregulated energy market, following the passage of Senate Bill 7. This legislation paves the way for a competitive retail market, granting consumers the power to choose their electricity provider and motivating companies to offer innovative products and services.

  • 2005: The Energy Policy Act is signed, reinforcing the trend of deregulation. This act further stimulates competition in the electricity and natural gas markets and establishes essential reliability standards for the bulk power system.

  • Today: The deregulation movement continues to expand, with 17 states and the District of Columbia embracing deregulation as of 2021. The conversation around deregulation is ongoing, with lively debates about its pros and cons, as well as efforts to fine-tune regulations to strike the perfect balance between competition and consumer protection.
How has energy distribution and regulation changed in the United States over the past 100 years? Check out our timeline above for more details on how getting energy from the plant to your home has evolved.

Which States Have Deregulated Energy Markets?

Wondering which states have ventured down the same path as Texas? Let’s highlight key moments in the journey of energy deregulation across the U.S. with a brief timeline:

State-by-State Deregulation Timeline

  • 1996: California pioneers the movement, turning its electricity market into a competitive landscape.
  • 1997: Rhode Island and Massachusetts initiate the deregulation process, offering their consumers an array of electricity providers to choose from.
  • 1999: Pennsylvania and New York join the trend, sparking competition and opening a variety of choices for consumers in their electricity markets.
  • 2000: New Jersey and Maryland step in.
  • 2001: Connecticut and Delaware join the deregulation bandwagon.
  • 2002: Texas paves the way for an entirely deregulated energy market, showcasing a plethora of electricity providers and novel plan types.
  • 2002-2003: Illinois, New Hampshire, Maine, and the District of Columbia deregulate their markets.
  • 2004-2005: Michigan, Ohio, and Oregon extend the list of deregulated states, widening the scope for their residents to pick their preferred electricity providers.
  • 2006: Virginia embarks on their deregulation journey.

As of 2021, 17 states and the District of Columbia have deregulated their energy markets, either completely or partially. These states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, and Virginia. While each state’s approach to deregulation may differ, the overall goal remains the same: to increase competition, foster innovation, and provide consumers with more choices in the energy market.

How is Texas’ deregulated market different from other states?

Now, let’s focus on Texas. Here are some features that make our deregulated market stand out from the rest:

  1. Leading deregulated energy market: With over 9.9 million households and a population exceeding 29 million, Texas holds the distinction of being the most sizable deregulated energy market in the United States.

  2. Comprehensive deregulation: Unlike many other states, Texas does not have a government-backed utility, allowing for a wider diversity of energy plans and types.

  3. Designated regulating entities: Texas has its own governing agencies, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT). ERCOT manages the state’s power grid, while PUCT oversees electricity providers, ensuring compliance with regulations.

  4. Power to choose: This resource, operated by PUCT, provides Texans an impartial platform to compare energy plans and providers, aiding consumers in making informed decisions regarding their energy options.

  5. Separation of power generation & delivery: In Texas, power generators produce electricity, retailers sell the power to consumers, and utilities deliver it through the grid. This division of roles enables each entity to focus on its core competencies, enhancing efficiency and competitiveness in the market.

  6. Independent power grid: Texas maintains its own power grid, separate from the Eastern and Western Interconnections that supply power to the rest of the United States. This unique arrangement allows the state to independently manage its energy resources.
A map of the deregulated energy market service areas in Texas, by TDU that owns the territory.
This is a map of the deregulated energy market service areas in Texas, by TDU that owns the territory. In Texas’ deregulated market, ERCOT manages an ecosystem where the production and sale of energy has been separated from the distribution of the energy. The companies that manage the electrical grid’s components and are responsible for repairs during blackouts are called Transmission and Distribution Utilities or Transmission and Distribution Service Providers.

What about areas outside of the ERCOT deregulated energy market?

Texas, with its diverse regional grids, covers about 85% of residences under its umbrella of deregulation. Nevertheless, several cities and regions, including Austin, San Antonio, and El Paso, have not adopted deregulation. These regions continue with municipally owned utilities or electric cooperatives. In these areas, the energy market structure remains traditional, where a single entity is responsible for both the generation and delivery of power.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Energy Deregulation

Energy deregulation, like any system, brings a blend of advantages and challenges. It has given rise to an array of innovative plan types in Texas, driving competition and consumer choice. However, it has also led to situations like the 2021 grid collapse and Griddy’s bankruptcy in the wake of winter storms. These events underline the complex dynamics that come with navigating the energy market.


  • Enhanced competition: This leads to lower prices and a wider selection of plans for customers.
  • Promotion of innovation: Companies are incentivized to create new technologies and services.
  • Customer choice: Consumers have the freedom to select the energy plan and provider that best fits their needs.


  • Price instability: In a deregulated market, prices can vary.
  • Potential for misleading marketing: Some companies might resort to deceptive strategies to gain customers.
  • Possible reduction in consumer protections: Deregulation can occasionally result in fewer safeguards for consumers.


There you have it – your comprehensive guide to understanding energy deregulation in Texas. We trust this information will equip you to make knowledgeable decisions about your energy provider and plan. Keep in mind, BKV Energy is always on hand to assist you in selecting a plan that aligns with your lifestyle and budget. So now, it’s your turn. Get out there and choose the energy plan that’s right for you1, with confidence!