Why Do Texans Have Wildly High Energy Bills Now? Corporate Greed

Photo: THOMAS SHEA/AFP/Getty Images.
After an unparalleled winter storm brought snowfall and frigid temperatures to the state of Texas, leaving more than 3 million people without power, heat, and access to clean water, residents are finally starting to see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. And after enduring its second coldest week ever, temperatures are finally rising, lights are finally coming back on, and power is returning throughout the state.
But the crisis is far from over: Right now, as many as 10 million people are still unable to access clean drinking water. At least 58 people lost their lives. And now that the power is back on, residents are receiving obscene electric bills — because energy companies have found yet another way to profit off disaster.
Advertisement
According to reporting from The New York Times, the increase in cost is a result of the state’s unregulated energy market. Unlike other states, Texas allows customers to “pick their electricity providers among 220 retailers in an entirely market-driven system,” according to the Times. These plans allow providers to increase cost as demands increase in an attempt to supposedly encourage residents to “reduce their usage and power suppliers to create more electricity,” as argued by those who support the system. But when that system failed during the storm, the Texas Public Utilities commission raised the price cap, causing an increase in price and, in some cases, to more than 50 times the regular cost.
As those capable returned to their homes — some facing extensive water damage, collapsed roofs, and tainted water — the bills started to arrive. Many people shared pictures of their bills online, sparking intense backlash and calls for the state government to intervene.
“When your electric company tells you to switch but there has been a hold on switching for over a week now,” one Texas resident tweeted, along with a screenshot of her $3,801.16 electric bill. “Using as little as possible 1300sq ft house and this is my bill. How is this fair. I only paid $1200 for the whole 2020 year.” 
And that was just a sampling of the bills sent to Texas residents. Here are a few other examples of the unconscionable prices those who survived the storm are now facing: 
Advertisement
As a result of the outrage, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he’s working with state legislators to address the rise in energy costs, telling Texans on Sunday that he’s trying to “find ways that the state can help reduce this burden.” But, according to the Associated Press, Abbott did not give any specifics as to what that means or any steps lawmakers are willing to take.
The state has temporarily banned companies from cutting off power to those who cannot afford to pay the increased cost of their electric bills. But the greater financial toll of the winter storm, the power outage, and the clean water crisis still remains to be seen. For those who lost loved ones, the cost is incalculable. And for those receiving high energy bills, the road to full recovery and the chance to rebuild feels insurmountable. Residents in Texas will need support for weeks, months, even years to come.
If you are able to help, here is a list of organizations doing the groundwork to help people come out on the other side of this crisis. 
North Texas Rural Resilience: @ntrr4yall on Venmo
Mutual Aid Houston: GoFundMe
Austin Disaster Relief Fund: Donate here
FeedThePeopleDallas: @feedthepeopledallas on Venmo
Dallas Harm Reduction Aid: @dallashra on Venmo
Texas Jail Project: Donations will go to commissary for people incarcerated across the state so that they can buy food and supplies.

More from US News

R29 Original Series

Advertisement