US Texas freeze raises concerns about 'ridiculous' variable rate bills

09:10  23 february  2021
09:10  23 february  2021 Source:   reuters.com

As Texans went without heat, light or water, some companies scored a big payday

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Texas freeze raises concerns about ' ridiculous ' variable rate bills By Reuters - Feb 23, 2021. By Stephanie Kelly, Peter Szekely and Jennifer Hiller HOUSTON (Reuters) - In Spring, Texas , about 20 miles (32 km) north of Houston, Akilah Scott-Amos is staring down a more than Oil prices jump more than as U.S. output struggles to fully restart By Reuters - Feb 23, 2021 13.

Raise your hand if you're in a Blue State, it's real cold, and your lights and heat are still on. Apparently, if you’re a Texan right about now, you only deserve sympathy if you’re a Biden-voting Democrat – and those Trump-loving Red Republicans can and should freeze to death, by implication. “I'm sorry let me just pack up and move to a deep blue state where my vote isn't even needed so that I can earn the right to live,” said one Twitter user, who self-identified “as a Texan leftist.”

By Stephanie Kelly, Peter Szekely and Jennifer Hiller

FILE PHOTO: Winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston © Reuters/GO NAKAMURA FILE PHOTO: Winter weather caused electricity blackouts in Houston

HOUSTON (Reuters) - In Spring, Texas, about 20 miles (32 km) north of Houston, Akilah Scott-Amos is staring down a more than $11,000 electric bill for this month, a far cry from her $34 bill at this time last year.

"What am I going to do?" Scott-Amos, 43, said. She was among the millions of Texas residents who lost power during several days of bitter cold that caused the state's electrical grid, operated by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, to break down. "I guess the option is, what, I'll pay it? I just don't feel like we should have to."

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Many Texans are facing sky high electricity bills , some charged thousands of dollars for just the past few days due to the freezing weather. Atmos Energy Corp., one of the largest independent suppliers of gas in the U.S., revealed Friday that it’s looking to raise cash after committing to spend as much as .5 billion to secure fuel during the freeze .Just Energy, a retail energy provider specializing in electricity and natural gas, announced a recapitalization plan and a board shakeup last July, after.

But since Texas typically does get doesn't get freezing temperature, these natural gas lines and wells weren't not winterized, like they're are in Northern States, and they froze up. In a situation where the climate isn't rapidly changing, there would be no reason for Texas to need winterized infrastructure. So the people with the ridiculously high rates are those who chose the option that is often cheaper than the competitor’s but has a very high limit on the maximum rate they can charge? While it’s a completely ridiculous price hike, I fail to see how it’s the energy provider’s fault if people actively

Scott-Amos's electric provider was Griddy, a Houston-based company that provides wholesale electricity at variable rates for a monthly $9.99 fee. She and many others who signed up for variable-rate plans are facing skyrocketing utility bills as natural gas spot prices rose by several thousand percent in a matter of days during the unexpected cold.

More than a dozen states currently allow customers to sign up with variably-priced suppliers other than their power distribution companies. As climate change causes more unpredictable weather events, those who participate in such plans face the possibility of wild swings in their monthly costs in parts of the United States that rarely experience big temperature changes.

Texas' woes foreshadows future climate-change disasters

  Texas' woes foreshadows future climate-change disasters Hot-weather infrastructure and an isolated power grid have left the state unprepared for extreme weather.The storm, which froze nuclear facilities, coal and gas power stations, and wind turbines, offers a cautionary tale of how extreme weather can paralyze critical energy facilities and throw vast swaths of country into chaos. Across the U.S., experts says, states like Texas are largely unprepared for a range of climate emergencies, from Arctic-like cold in warmer regions to widespread flooding, droughts, wildfires and other symptoms of a rapidly heating planet.

It will likely be ordinary Texans .The price tag so far: .6 billion, the cost of electricity sold from early Monday, when the blackouts began, to Friday morning, according to BloombergNEF estimates. That compares with .2 billion for the prior week.Some of those costs have already fallen onto consumers as electricity customers exposed to wholesale prices wracked up power bills as high as ,000 last week. Other customers won’t know what they’re in for until they receive their gas and power bills at the end of the month.

Some of the warmest places in Texas , where rolling power outages are occurring across the chilly state, are inside cars and trucks parked in the driveway of a home without electricity.

The number of U.S. customers that pay variable rates is not clear, but as of 2019 about 11 million homes and businesses were enrolled in so-called dynamic pricing programs, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Those plans vary, but include peak-of-use options as well as variable-rate plans.

Last week's rolling blackouts in Texas and the skyrocketing bills are likely to dampen efforts in other states to introduce more competitive utility pricing structures, said John Howat, a senior energy analyst with National Consumer Law Center, a consumer advocacy group.

Until this week, in some states, electric suppliers were pushing "to just have it be a free-for-all, the way it is in Texas," he said, referring to variable-rate style plans.

Some states affected by the storms have announced probes into skyrocketing utility bills. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said during a Monday press conference that he will be looking at whether companies violated Oklahoma laws that prohibit companies from increasing prices by more than 10% for goods or services after an emergency is declared.

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(Bloomberg) -- The Texas deep freeze that upended the U.S. energy market has delivered Macquarie Group Ltd. a windfall of as much as A0 million (0 million) amid wild swings in gas and electricity prices.The Sydney-based investment bank on Monday raised its profit forecast, citing increased demand for its gas and power supply services in the U.S. At the same time, Griddy Griddy customers in Texas are being handed massive utility bills some as high as ,000. The supplier charges electricity based on real-time prices in wholesale markets, therefore passing the costs straight on to consumers.

Texas is still recovering from the snowstorm that caused the state’s power grid to collapse and left millions without electricity during freezing weather. For days, millions of Texans lived without power, sufficient warmth, accessible roads or empathy from certain elected officials. (I’m looking at you Sen.

"The goal there is to, in as substantive and productive a way as possible, figure out ways to mitigate the impact of this utility bill phenomenon we're expecting to see in the next couple of months," he said.


"I definitely will fight this bill as much as I can," said former Griddy customer Lorna Rose, a 33-year-old administrative assistant in Dallas, who racked up about $900 in charges before managing to jump to a different power provider. Her usual monthly bill is less than $100 per month.

"The last thing I'm going to do is stress myself with paying off this ridiculous bill. It should never have happened in the first place," she said.

Texas utility regulators will temporarily ban power companies from billing customers or disconnecting them for non-payment, Governor Greg Abbott said on Sunday.

The Texas market has close to 7 million residential customers, and most people do not have variable-rate plans, said Catherine Webking, a partner at Austin-based law firm Scott Douglass & McConnico.

Griddy, which has 29,000 customers, according to local media reports, would account for 0.4% of the state's total residential customers.

Woman files class-action lawsuit against Texas power provider after $9,500 electricity bill

  Woman files class-action lawsuit against Texas power provider after $9,500 electricity bill Lisa Khoury wants Griddy to grant full forgiveness to customers hit with massive bills during last week's winter storm.The civil complaint, filed in Harris County District Court by Mont Belvieu, Texas, resident Lisa Khoury, also wants Griddy to "fully forgive late or non-payments associated with such bills, including removing any negative credit reporting and penalties, and to refund payments already made on such bills.

"It's important to understand that is such a small, small sliver," Webking said.

However, some customers of utilities with fixed rate plans could get higher bills, too.

San Antonio's CPS Energy, the nation's largest municipally owned gas and electric utility with over 840,000 customers, typically passes fuel charges to customers for generating or purchasing power.

On Friday, it said on Twitter that it would consider spreading out customers' utility bills over 10 years. That tweet drew a firestorm of criticism, with numerous commenters comparing such a bill to a mortgage.

"We are going to have a tsunami across the state associated with customer affordability," Chief Executive Paula Gold-Williams said in a briefing on Monday, adding that CPS would not add those costs to bills while it sought state relief.

Natural gas prices surged by as much as 16,000% during the storm, and CPS didn't have enough supply, nor had it hedged enough against price spikes, Gold-Williams said. The utility did not yet know the full cost of the winter storm, she added.

As consumers struggle with sudden surges in bills, some companies profited handsomely. "This week is like hitting the jackpot," said Roland Burns, president and chief financial officer at Comstock Resources, a natural gas provider.

Griddy said in an auto-reply email to Reuters that it was in talks with ERCOT to get relief for customers exposed to "non-market pricing." It added that it had a deferred payment plan for customers with a negative balance.

That may not help customers like Scott-Amos.

"I'm not exactly sure what I'm supposed to do," she said. "Should I take from my 401K? Should I get a loan?"

(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly, Peter Szekely, and Jennifer Hiller; additional reporting by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Brad Brooks; editing by Richard Pullin)

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This is interesting!