Many Texans are receiving sky-high power bills while battling the disastrous winter storm ravaging the state.
One man who received $660 in bills for three electric meters last month has been slapped with more than $17,000 in electricity charges for the current month. Another person, Jose Del Rio, told NBC News that his two-bedroom home was only charged $125 to $150 a month for electricity. But this month, he received a bill of over $3,000.
Most households that have seen a massive spike in electricity bills have opted for variable-rate plans with a service provider called Griddy. The widespread power disruptions in the past few days had triggered a sudden surge in electricity prices in the wholesale market. It went from $50 per Megawatt to $9,000 per Megawatt.
Most homes were not affected by this as they are on a fixed-rate plan. However, variable-rate customers, whose charges are calculated according to current market prices for electricity, ended up with huge bills.
Texans stuck with massive electricity bills
Griddy advised customers to switch to a different provider that offers fixed-rate plans. It warned that disruptions in the power supply could trigger a surge in demand. However, many people could not switch to other electricity providers as they did not accept new customers.
The individual who received a $17,000 bill did switch to a new service. He is looking for a way to pay off his massive electricity bill. He feels as though he is being held hostage by the bill.
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT), the utility regulator in the state, has announced that it is investigating the issue. Griddy is avoiding blame for the huge electricity bills stating that the market sets the price.
The company is also seeking relief from the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and PUCT for its customers who have received high bills. In a statement, Griddy said that it is committed to crediting customers any relief they receive, “dollar-for-dollar.”
Governor Greg Abbott convened a meeting to discuss the problem of steep electricity charges.
“It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs… To protect families, I am actively working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House, and members of the Legislature to develop solutions to ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills,” the governor said in a statement.
Winterizing the energy system
Abbott has also asked power companies to winterize the energy system to better prepare Texas’ power infrastructure for extreme winter conditions in the future. However, retrofitting plants with equipment that will help them withstand extreme cold will be expensive. But building a new winterized power infrastructure only involves a small additional cost.
“Canada runs power systems with weather colder than this all the time… A lot of these problems you can fix by spending money. There is a question: If you have a low probability of an extreme event, do you want to spend the money?” Peter Hartley, an energy expert at Rice University, asked the Texas Tribune.