The mayor of Houston said on Sunday that the state of Texas would have to pay the sky-high energy bills reported by many Texans as a result of dire winter weather last week that cut off electricity for millions of people.
Many Texas residents have reported stratospheric energy bills, some running into the thousands of dollars, as historic snow, ice and cold ravaged the state and left dozens dead.
The Texas power grid, unlike the rest of the continental United States, operates its own power grid which is largely unregulated. Strong demand during a supply crisis – like last week’s heating blitz when power plants were crippled – can lead to dramatic price hikes for residents with variable rate electricity plans.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said in an interview on Sunday that the responsibility rests with Texas lawmakers for the pervasive and predictable flaws in the state’s energy grid.
“It was all predictable,” Turner said on CBS’s “Face the Nation”. “And therefore, for these exorbitant costs, it is not the consumers who should bear this cost. They are not responsible for what happened this week. … These bills, these exorbitant costs, should be borne by the State of Texas.
The mayor added that the state should “open” its energy network or risk a repeated scenario.
Many Texas power generation systems failed over the past week due to weather conditions, just as demand increased. Frozen natural gas pipelines and unprepared power plants were the main culprits.
The state’s electricity grid was “seconds and minutes” away from a catastrophic outage and cascading problems that would have left millions of people without power for months, said Bill Magness, president of the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas, which manages electricity for about 90% of the state.
Network operators responded with continued power outages that left many people without heat in the brutal cold.
Electricity prices in Texas in the winter are typically around 12 cents per kilowatt hour, NPR noted, but last week those prices climbed to $ 9 per kilowatt hour. Some residents whose power has remained have reported bills close to $ 17,000, due to risky energy contracts that can be inexpensive when electricity is cheap, but outrageous when it is expensive.
Gov. Greg Abbott (right) responded to those concerns on Sunday, saying the state is struggling to find a way to stop residents from paying high bills. The Utilities Commission has issued two orders that temporarily prevent energy providers from disconnecting customers who have not paid their bills and another to prevent companies from sending bills until the state decides what to do.
“We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are the result of harsh winter weather and power outages,” Abbott said in a statement. “We are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions to help Texas families and ensure they don’t end up with skyrocketing energy bills.” . “
Most Texans have now regained their power. About 16,000 people still had no Sunday evening service.
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