Following the deadly winter storm that left millions of Texans without power, Abbott convened an emergency meeting with state lawmakers to address the massive price gouging that has been taking place.
Reports indicate that energy prices skyrocketed from around $50 per Megawatt to more than $9,000 in many areas of the state. Consequently, customers were shocked at the bills they received.
"It's mind-blowing," said Royce Pierce, a customer of energy company Griddy who received a bill for $8,162.73. "I honestly didn't believe the price at first. It's not a great feeling knowing that there is a looming bill that we just can't afford."
Pierce was one of the fortunate who did not lose power during the storm. At the same time, he was not so fortunate to receive a massive power bill for just a few days' worth of energy.
"There is nothing we can do now," he says. "This is already an insane thing and I don't care about the money when it comes to people's health."
If it were not for the Wuhan coronavirus (Covid-19), Pierce says he would have had enough work, and thus money, to pay the lofty bill. Due to fears about Chinese germs, however, Pierce has not been working as much as normal, meaning he cannot afford to pay it.
Another customer out of Dallas told the media that his bill was over $1,000, which is strange seeing as how he lives in a "700 square foot apartment I have been keeping at 60 degrees."
"When your electric company tells you to switch but there has been a hold on switching for over a week now," tweeted another couple about their plight. "Using as little as possible 1300 sq ft house and this is my bill," they added, showing a screenshot of $3,800 charge for the month.
One of the most disturbing bills we have seen was the one received by Ty Williams, who told WFAA that normally he pays around $660 per month for electricity. This month it rose to $17,000.
"How in the world can anyone pay that?" he asks. "I mean you go from a couple of hundred dollars a month ... there's absolutely no way ... it makes no sense."
Abbott announced that the Public Utility Commission of Texas will be ordering all electricity companies to stop sending bills to customers until the state is able to find a way to protect customers from price gouging.
"Texans who have suffered through days of freezing cold without power should not be subjected to skyrocketing energy bills," Abbott told reporters on Sunday. "The issue about utility bills and the skyrocketing prices that so many homeowners and renters are facing is the top priority for the Texas legislature right now."
Because Texas has a deregulated energy market, customers are free to choose from scores of competing electricity providers. Many of them sell electricity at wholesale prices that rise in tandem with demand.
Because well over 4.5 million Texas households were without power during the peak of the crisis, energy demand soared – and so did people's bills.
"The bill should go to the state of Texas," said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in an interview Sunday. "When they're getting these exorbitant electricity bills and they're having to pay for their homes, repair their homes, they should not have to bear that responsibility."
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