With news of skyrocketing energy bills across Texas, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner thinks the state should cover those increased costs. Speaking Sunday on the Face of the Nation, Turner called the increased charges “unfair” and pointed to the foreseeable nature of the current crisis.
The state of Texas and not the individual consumers should bear those bills and their exorbitant costs said Turner. He says that residents in his city and elsewhere are already burdened with having to pay for repairs after last week’s unprecedented winter storm.
Reports of energy bills in the thousands of dollars have made headlines, with one utility provider telling customers to leave them. There were also reports of people waking up to negative bank accounts, prompting others to stop automatic bill payments.
Savannah Thigpeen told ABC 13 her bill jumped to more than $600 in a matter of days. She previously paid no more than $50 a month. According to Thigpeen, her provider, Griddy, sent out an email encouraging customers to find another electricity service provider.
Like Thigpeen, others with variable-rate plans have seen the largest surges in electricity bills. Ty Williams, another Griddy customer, said his bill increased from $600 to $17,000. Providers like Griddy allow customers to pay a wholesale price.
Such prices are usually no more than several cents per kilowatt-hour. But state regulators permitted energy providers to increase prices up to $9 per kilowatt-hour despite the storm.
Over the weekend, the Public Utility Commission of Texas put a temporary ban on utility shut-offs because of nonpayment. While the Commission ordered utility providers to continue a COVID-19 measure that provides customers with a deferred payment plan, it is unclear how long the current price hikes will last.
“They should not have to bear the responsibility of paying a thousand dollars a day, or two thousand dollars a day,” urged Turner.
Gov. Greg Abbott is reportedly working with the legislature to reduce the burden of the high electric bills. President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration permitting federal emergency funding. Looking forward, Turner said that these storms could happen at any time.
“The reality is climate change is real,” Turner said.
Millions were without power and later water, as the outages led to issues with water systems statewide. Turner said protecting both must be a priority for leaders across the state.