Storm’s financial effects haven’t been felt by many consumers
The full effect of the storm hasn’t been felt by some residents. More than 44 percent of survey respondents said they had not received a February bill.
They could receive bad news when they do. The combination of high electricity demand and reduced electricity supply at the height of the storm caused wholesale electricity prices – and rates immediately tied to them – to spike to as high as $9 per kilowatt hour. The average Texas residential electricity rate in February 2020 was 11.96 cents/kWh.
Texans with electricity plans tied to wholesale prices reported receiving bills of $9,000 or more because of the spike. A class-action lawsuit protesting the charges has been filed against Griddy, a provider that tied rates directly to wholesale prices. ERCOT has stepped in and sent those customers to what’s called a provider of last resort.
The average Texas bill in December, the latest month for which statistics are available from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, was $135.31. The average for February 2020 was $133.11.
However, nearly a third of respondents said their February bill was similar to what they’d expect to pay for electricity, and only 18 percent said it was higher or much higher.
As bills continue to roll in, the number of Texans experiencing higher-than-expected charges may climb higher.
Texans had already embraced fixed rates
One reason bills came in near what customers expected is that most respondents said they have fixed electricity rates. The electricity supply rates remain constant in these plans regardless of market prices. More than two-thirds of respondents said they had fixed-rate plans.
Other plans include the following:
- Wholesale plans. Griddy’s charged a monthly fee for service plus the real-time wholesale price.
- Variable rate plans. These allow for monthly changes in the rate according to wholesale market prices.