Texans Slammed by Thousand-Dollar Power Bills After Storm
By Yueqi Yang & Naureen S Malik February 20, 2021
After enduring a wretched week of Arctic storms, hunger and cold, several Texans lucky enough to have power were handed another pain point — massive electricity bills.
Houston resident David Astrein, 36, a human resources director at a manufacturing company, said he’s been charged $2,738.66 for 20 days this month versus $129.85 for the whole of January for a three-bedroom home with a detached garage. He and his wife stopped using their dishwasher, washer and dryer, and turned on as few lights as possible at night. They kept the heat on for their 5-month old son.
His bill for the month is set to exceed $3,000, according to his provider Griddy Energy.
Astrein is one of a swath of consumers facing sky-high payments in the aftermath of the storm — many took to social media to show electricity bills ranging as high as $8,000. According to their screen shots, most are customers of Griddy, a supplier with a unique business model.
The Macquarie Energy-backed company charges electricity based on real-time prices in wholesale power markets, therefore exposing consumers to the full swings. Griddy saw the problem developing and even urged its retail customers last weekend to switch to another provider. By Sunday last week, 20% managed to do so. But not Astrein.
“We were stuck with Griddy and those astronomical prices,” he said by phone. “The failure in Texas as a whole to plan for this adequately is now a financial emergency for all of these customers on a program like Griddy.”
But for some Griddy watchers, the furor comes as scant surprise after the scorching summer of 2019 also resulted in eye-watering bills. The phenomenon is unique to Texas, where the retail power industry is entirely deregulated.