The mayor of Houston, a city in the state of Texas, asked the state government to pay for the high electricity bills that are arriving at the homes of its residents – one of the consequences of the severe cold that hit the southern United States last week, leaving at least 70 dead and thermometers at -18ºC.
Sylvester Turner argued, in an interview with the CBS News TV channel, that it is not the fault of the residents that the electricity distribution system did not meet the high demand.
Millions of people were left without power in Texas after snowstorms hit the state. However, some of those who had their supply maintained were faced with electricity bills reaching five digits.
So the Dallas resident and Army veteran Scott Willoughby told The New York Times — he had to pay a $ 16,000 bill for just a few days of use, which ended up with your savings.
Susan Hosford, a resident of the Texas city of Denison, told the Associated Press news agency that she was charged $ 1,300 for the first two weeks of February alone. Since the amount was automatically debited from her account and she did not have sufficient funds, she had to pay interest.
Many other people who have complained on social media about their high electricity bills are customers of operator Griddy, which only serves Texas.
The company offers one of the most popular plans in the state in the wholesale model. With worsening weather conditions, it even alerted customers to the price increase, but little could be done in time.
Texas is one of the few states in the United States that has an independent power supply system, which makes it difficult to reinforce neighboring states in crisis situations. Thus, in an emergency meeting held on the 16th, a state committee responsible for infrastructure decided to increase the price of energy.
The change did not affect customers who contracted fixed rate plans. Those who adopted variable tariffs – usually cheaper in the short term, when weather conditions are stable – were hit hard by the increase.
The Texas Electric Reliability Council, which oversees the state’s power supply, is being accused of failing to prepare for scarcity scenarios like today.
Currently, power supplies have been restored in much of Texas, but just over 15,000 customers were still without power at lunchtime on Monday (22), according to the Poweroutage.us website.
After the scare of the last few weeks, the temperature in Texas is milder and more typical of this time of year.
Who pays the bill?
Mayor Turner told CBS that, when he was a state legislator, he presented a bill to ensure that there was an “adequate reserve” of energy to prevent blackouts – however, he says his political colleagues did not adhere to the agenda.
Sylvester Turner argues that the system is not up to the challenges posed by climate change.
“All of this was predictable. I wrote about it in 2011. And, therefore, for these exorbitant costs, it is not consumers who should bear these costs.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said after meeting with lawmakers that “we have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills as a result of harsh winter and power outages”.
President Joe Biden declared a calamity in Texas last week, paving the way for the use of federal funds in relief spending.