Texas Oil Boom
In the early 1900’s, the Texas Oil Boom was officially underway. And within just a few short years of “Spindletop,” Texas quickly became one of the leading oil producing states in the U.S., along with Oklahoma and California. The U.S. soon overtook the Russian Empire as the top producer of petroleum. By 1940 Texas had come to dominate U.S. production.
Since that time, Texas has helped advance the energy market in many different ways; among them electricity deregulation. In 1996 Texas was the first state to operate the nation’s first electric utility industry ISO (ERCOT) in the United States. Three years later, on May 21, 1999, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), which required the creation of a competitive retail electricity market to give customers the ability to choose their retail electric providers, starting January 1, 2002.In the late 1990’s, the world watched as Texas made history again by passing Senate Bill 7, which called to phase in electricity deregulation across Texas. And in June 2001, when the deregulation pilot program officially kicked off, there was unprecedented confusion in the market. Businesses of all sizes and residential customers alike were scrambling to understand what utility choice really meant to them and what their options were.To make the situation more complicated, Texas was under the microscope. Other regulated markets across the country were looking to ERCOT, one of the largest electricity grids in the country, to see if deregulation was going to work, or make Texas a fractured market.
The Electricity Professionals Association
Among those closely watching electricity deregulation unfold in Texas was a handful of energy professionals including David Weirs, Brian Markum, Paul Ward, Paul Smolen, JD Dodson, Scott Heath, St. Clair Newbern IV and Mark Goodson. These early pioneers of energy deregulation banded together to create The Electricity Professionals Association. “Once the dust settled from the initial rollout, we noticed a troubling pattern emerge from some electricity brokers,” said Heath. “Deregulation had framed Texas as the ‘Wild West’ of electricity markets. As a result, the state was a new frontier that attracted a growing number brokers who wanted to make short-term money at the expense of uninformed consumers and a fragile new market. At times, there seemed to be a lack of quality education and a questionable commitment to ethical marketing by some.” Retail Electricity Providers (REPs) also became concerned. They were among the first to raise the “red flag” about the perception that some electricity brokers were taking advantage of customers through confusing business practices and the misrepresentation of their products, services and costs. Unfortunately, outside of the Public Utility Commission of Texas, there was no widely recognized consumer advocacy group watching out for electricity buyers in Texas. But that small group of eight brokers and consultants were listening. “The majority of new energy brokers in the state were operating ethical businesses,” said Markum. “Unfortunately, the few who weren’t, received lots of attention. The more we heard about bad procurement experiences from customers and suppliers, the more we realized there was a need for a consumer advocacy group. As a result, a small group of progressive electricity aggregators, consultants and brokers took action and formed the Texas Electricity Professional Association.” Bringing a group of new brokers together who were, for all intents and purposes, competing for the same clients was difficult at first. The notion of coming together to share ideas about the best ways to make a fair deregulated energy market seemed counterintuitive to these entrepreneurs who were invested in growing their companies. “We were all friendly competitors,” said St. Clair Newbern IV, a founding TEPA member. “But we were also united in making sure that Texas did not get a ‘black eye’ from brokers who were seemingly less than honest in their energy procurement practices.” There were others from the broker community who were also looking for a way to distinguish themselves from the “bad apples.” TEPA was their answer. “Through TEPA, we’ve established a code of conduct for brokers, a higher standard of industry knowledge through a testing and certification program, advocacy at the legislative level and education for consumers about their energy procurement options,” adds Ward. “Since coming together, Texas consumers have come to expect a higher level of professionalism from their brokers and consumers are sure to see the continued benefits over time. I’m confident as TEPA continues to grow within the Lone Star State, and beyond, it will remain a beacon for positive change and the standard for ethical marketing practices in our industry.”
Membership Fuels a Name Change
In January 2012, to better accommodate the growing membership and needs of the Association, TEPA officially changed its name from Texas Electricity Professionals Association to The Energy Professionals Association. Paul Ward, who was serving as TEPA’s president and led the charge to change the name said, “TEPA is non-profit organization that was established to educate consumers about their electricity options, as well as manage a system of checks and balances for Retail Electric Providers. Brokers and consultants across Texas have an ever-increasing interest in the influence of natural gas on power rates, as well as building relationships with natural gas related companies. In keeping with this level of market maturation among our membership, TEPA is changing our name from ‘electricity’ to ‘energy’ to be more inclusive of the overall industry.”
TEPA Becomes a National Association
In August 2013, Michael Harris, TEPA president and David Roylance, TEPA vice president, helped organize a roundtable in New York City to discuss the creation of the first TEPA chapter outside Texas. The roundtable was held on Aug. 14, at the offices of Good Energy and was attended by leading energy professionals across New York, New Jersey and Maryland. “TEPA has steadily grown across Texas since it was founded in 2005,” said Harris. “During that time the Association has attracted the interest of energy brokers and providers from outside the state. We set up the roundtable in New York City to gauge the interest of energy professionals in the area and determine how a TEPA chapter would benefit the market. We’re very enthusiastic about the reception we received from those who attended. We look forward to establishing the Northeast TEPA chapter in that market within the next few months.” The new TEPA Northeast Chapter Board of Directors was announced in December 2013 at the chapter’s first open house. The members include Javier Barrios, TEPA president and Managing Partner at Good Energy; Jon Hartnett, TEPA vice president and Enterprise Manager at EnerNOC; Jeff Lenetsky, TEPA treasurer and Sales Director at World Energy; Gordon Boyd, TEPA legislative/regulatory chair and President of EnergyNext; Craig Wall, TEPA standards & compliance chair and Manager of Channel Sales at Patriot Energy; and Bill Cannon, TEPA board secretary and VP of Northeast Markets with Choice Energy. Today The Energy Professional Association includes more than 200 independent member companies and over 500 energy market professionals from across the country.