Author: Jeff Mosier, Energy and Environment Writer Dallas Morning News Published 2/27/18

The difficult four-year effort to find a new parent company for Oncor, which owns most North Texas power lines, is now one step away from completion.

A Delaware bankruptcy court confirmed San Diego-based Sempra Energy’s $9.45 billion offer on Monday. That leaves the Texas Public Utility Commission as the last barrier.

In the PUC’s previous meeting, officials asked staffers to prepare a resolution signing off on the deal. That action suggested the three commissioners were prepared to green-light the sale of Texas’ largest regulated utility and didn’t have significant concerns.Texas regulators could approve the deal as early as their March 8 meeting. The sale has been closely watched because Oncor serves about 3.4 million households and businesses, most of them in North Texas.

The PUC balked at earlier offers that would have cut into Oncor’s large degree of autonomy. That independence was credited with keeping Oncor financially strong during its parent company’s financial spiral.

Parent company Energy Future Holdings was created in 2007 in what was then the largest leveraged buyout ever. The company, crushed by its debt and low electricity prices, filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

Sempra has agreed to keep a majority-independent Oncor board, as well as to return to customers almost all the interest rate savings from the improved credit ratings Oncor is expected to receive as a result of the sale.

As part of a recently completed rate case, Oncor also committed to  returning to customers savings from the federal tax rate cut.

EFH’s other two companies — the retail electric provider TXU Energy and the power generator Luminant — were paired to create Vistra Energy. That company is now working on a deal to buy Houston-based Dynegy.

Meanwhile, owners of EFH debt are awaiting Oncor’s sale so they can recover some of their investments.