© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Winter weather caused power outages in Houston
By Gary McWilliams
HOUSTON (Reuters) – The Texas grid operator on Friday blocked Griddy Energy LLC's access to the state's power grid for unpaid bills and shifted its 10,000 customers to other utilities amid new signs of financial crisis emerging following a nationwide blackout.
Griddy was the electricity marketer selling electricity to consumers at wholesale prices that rose to $ 9,000 per megawatt hour when cold weather hit the state last week. The energy suppliers could not meet the demand and reduced the electricity to 4.3 million inhabitants as the temperatures fell below freezing point.
Texas’s grid operator Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT) "has effectively shut down Griddy," the electricity marketer said in a statement on its website. Requests for further comments were not returned.
ERCOT separately announced that on Friday, US $ 2.1 billion of its service bills were not paid by energy suppliers and other network users, another sign of the destruction caused by the high electricity tariffs during the cold snap.
According to Griddy's testimony, it was "a tiny fraction" of ERCOT's unpaid bills.
ERCOT transferred around 10,100 Griddy customers to others on Friday. Retail electricity suppliers who fail to pay their bills within 72 hours can have all of their customers reassigned.
The network operator's handling of the storm triggered a firestorm of criticism from residents and state officials, who blamed ERCOT for the lack of preparation for the storm. ERCOT called on the energy suppliers to interrupt the electricity to protect the power grid, which left 4.3 million people without heat or light and led to damage running into billions.
ERCOT is likely to face further deficits in the coming days, said Patrick Woodson, managing director of electricity marketers Green Energy Exchange. His company is one of nine companies protesting against ERCOT's multi-million dollar blackout fees.
"The price to be paid for surviving the first wave of those large bills is that you will face additional costs in the second wave," said Woodson. ERCOT distributes unpaid fees to the remaining network users.
The network operator said it would cover $ 800 million of the deficit by borrowing from internal accounts and withdrawing an undisclosed amount from network users with credit. An ERCOT spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comments.
Vistra Corp., the largest retail electricity company in the United States, said its TXU unit in Texas "volunteered to bring in significantly more customers," and was expecting a wave of transfers following the outages.
"After volatile events, there is often the opportunity to acquire retailers. As always, we will continue to be opportunistic when buying smaller customer books," said spokeswoman Meranda Cohn in an email.
Seven of ERCOT's 15 directors resigned this week and one candidate withdrew. Texas Governor Greg Abbott said the public anger was justified and accused ERCOT of failing to act faster to keep generators from going offline.
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