Texas officials hold emergency meeting to address energy bill spikes
AUSTIN, Texas - State officials held an emergency meeting Saturday to discuss the spike in energy bills affecting many Texans after power outages across the state this week.
Gov. Greg Abbott called the meeting with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, and several members of the Texas Legislature.
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We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages," said Abbott. "Today’s meeting was productive, and I applaud Republican and Democrat members of the Legislature for putting aside partisan politics to work together on this challenge. 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 do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills."
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According to Abbott's office, the governor discussed the need to ensure that Texans are not left with unreasonable utility bills they cannot afford because of the temporary massive spike in the energy market. Some Texans have been reporting energy bills in the thousands following the power outages, with one Arlington family reporting a bill of $17,000 for three meters over five days of use.
Reuters reported last Monday that real-time wholesale market prices on the state’s power grid reached more than $9,000 per megawatt-hour late Monday morning. One megawatt-hour is equal to about 1,000 kilowatt-hours. The average U.S. residential utility customer uses approximately 877 kWh each month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
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According to Abbott's office, the discussion with legislators focused on the need to quickly calculate the total cost of these energy bills and how the state can help reduce this burden. Those on the call also discussed addressing the immediate needs of Texans and how to ensure that Texans are protected long-term.
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The following legislators joined the call with Abbott, Patrick, and Phelan:
- State Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) – Chair of Senate Finance Committee
- State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) – Vice-Chair of Senate Finance Committee
- State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) – Chair of Senate Business and Commerce Committee
- State Sen. Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) – Vice-Chair of Senate Business and Commerce Committee
- State Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) - Vice-Chair of the Senate Higher Education Committee
- State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) – Chair of House Appropriations Committee
- State Rep. Chris Paddie (R-Marshall) – Chair of House State Affairs Committee
- State Rep. Ana Hernandez (D-Houston) – Vice Chair of House State Affairs Committee
- State Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth) – Chair of House Energy Resources Committee
In addition to looking at the energy bills resulting from the outages, state officials are also looking into why the outages happened in the first place.
Attorney General Ken Paxton issued civil investigative demands (CIDs) Friday to ERCOT and eleven other power companies in the state. The CIDs are regarding power outages, emergency plans, energy pricing, and more related to the severe winter weather that impacted the state and left millions of Texans without power and heat this week.
Abbott has already called for an investigation into ERCOT's handling of the outages. "What happened this week to Texans is absolutely unacceptable and can never be replicated again," he said in a briefing Thursday afternoon at the Alternate State Operations Center in Austin.