Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R-TX) told Fox News on Wednesday that the Texas residents who have been receiving extravagant energy bills gambled on typically inexpensive variable-rate plans and that Texas may even ban the types of variable plans that resulted in such spikes.
“I saw the story about the high bills. Let me explain that,” Patrick told Fox News host Harris Faulkner. “In Texas, you can choose your energy plan, and most people have a fixed rate. If they had a fixed rate per kilowatt hour, their rates aren’t going up.”
“Their bill may be going up because they used more energy — because they had the heat up when they had the power back — but the people who are getting those big bills are people who gambled on a very very low rate,” added Patrick. The lieutenant governor emphasized that Texans who receive such extravagant bills should “not panic,” and that the government would find out what exactly happened. “But going forward, people need to read fine-print in those kind of bills and we may even end that type of variable plan, because people were surprised,” he said.
After days of severe weather in Texas last week, some Texas residents on variable power plans, such as Griddy, reported racking up extremely high energy bills. According to The New York Times, one Griddy customer was charged $16,752 for electricity. (Griddy itself encouraged its 29,000 customers to find a different utility provider early last week so that they would avoid getting stuck with sky-high bills due to rising wholesale prices.)
Over the weekend, Governor Greg Abbott said the state of Texas had a responsibility to protect residents from extreme spikes in their energy bills that resulted from the recent sub-freezing temperature, which tossed the Texas energy infrastructure into turmoil. “We are moving quickly to alleviate this problem and will continue to work collaboratively throughout this week on solutions to help Texas families and ensure they do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills,” said Abbott.
The Public Utilities Commission of Texas has prohibited utility companies from cutting off electricity for consumers due to non-payment. The commission has also encouraged utility companies to “delay invoicing” for consumers and small commercial customers.
“We had incredible weather, it was 20 degrees below in West Texas with the windchill; we’ve never had anything like that,” Patrick told Faulkner on Fox News. “But we were told by ERCOT that they were ready. They were obviously not ready. We’re going to go everywhere we need to go to get the evidence, and that includes something, Harris, that we seldom do, and that is use subpoena power. If we have witnesses we believe that need to come to the table, and they will not come and testify, then we have the opportunity to issue a subpoena.”
“I’m personally taking this on my back, as the president of the Senate, where the legislation will, as well as the House, come through,” Patrick told Faulkner. “No nonsense, no excuses, we’ve got to fix this.”