Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Texans face crazy bills after blackout


Too much deregulation and exceptional climatic conditions brought Texas and its people to their knees in mid-February. Faced with strong demand, unusual and caused by rare Arctic temperatures, handicapped by a technical lack of preparation which causes scandal, its energy grid has almost completely collapsed, leaving millions of homes and industries in the dark.

Those who were lucky enough to continue to receive some power, even intermittently, might have preferred a full blackout. Because they are now facing delusional invoices, the payment of which, in particular in times of crisis, is an achievement – one of them reached 17,000 dollars (14,000 euros), report local media.

Here again, as the NPR website explains, it is the tariff deregulation specific to Texas that is in question. The households most dearly affected by these crazy painful bills are those having subscribed to variable rate contracts.

In normal times, these help to take advantage of energy at a controlled price, and the low prices, especially at night, make it possible to program the most demanding household appliances. But times were not normal, and prices exploded within hours.

Surprise, surprise!

The rise was such that one of the most popular variable rate contract providers in Texas, Griddy (whose name can curiously be understood as “miser”), urgently asked his customers to change carriers.

Griddy blames the Texan manager of the energy grid, the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas), as well as the Public Utility Commission of Texas. At the heart of the crisis, the second authorized the first to increase wholesale electricity tariffs, to reflect the impact of increased demand.

When the average price is $ 12 cents per kWh under normal circumstances, NPR notes, the ERCOT has allowed the wholesale price to climb to $ 9. An explosion which immediately affected the bills of the households concerned.

Griddy has publicly taken up the cause of his customers, claiming that she would fight alongside him to demand accountability from the authorities responsible for (non) management of the Texas grid.

State Governor Greg Abbott also called an emergency meeting to deal with these exorbitant bills. “We have a responsibility to protect Texans from these rising bills”, did he declare.

The real extent of the phenomenon is not known. A bipartisan group is seeking to bring the cases together, and an elected state judge has appealed on Twitter for the victims to come forward.

Because many of them fall naked when they discover their contractual situation and these invoices with four or even five figures. It seems that Texas operators have the unfortunate tendency to switch their customers without their knowledge to a variable rate contract once the end of their traditional contract has been reached. Clearly, the lack of rules can be costly.





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