Workers repair a power line in Austin, Texas, USA on Wednesday, February 18, 2021.
Thomas Ryan Allison | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Sunday called on the state of Texas to pay the huge electricity bills reported by numerous Texans after severe winter weather turned off electricity and increased energy prices.
Last week's freezing conditions caused major grid outages and skyrocketing demand, leaving millions of people without heat and electricity. Now that power has resumed for most of Texas, some households can expect utility bills of up to $ 10,000.
"People who are getting those exorbitant utility bills and having to pay to have their homes repaired shouldn't be held responsible," Turner said during an interview on CBS "Face the Nation." "These exorbitant costs should be borne by the state of Texas and not by the individual customers who did not cause this disaster this week."
The high electricity bills in Texas are due to the state's unregulated power grid, which is almost cut off from the rest of the country. In the market-oriented system, customers choose their own electricity suppliers. In many cases, prices rise as demand increases.
Texas' Electric Reliability Council (ERCOT), which powers around 90% of the state, was unprepared for the cold and the surge in electricity demand as people tried to heat their homes.
"Everything that happened in the past week was predictable and preventable. Our system in Texas is designed for the summer heat, not necessarily a winter event," said Turner.
"Climate change is real and these big storms can happen at any time," he added. "These systems have to be weathered … we have to open the Texas grid."
The exorbitant bills prompted Republican Governor Greg Abbott to hold an emergency meeting with lawmakers on Saturday to discuss how the state can ease the burden on consumers.
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The Texas Public Utility Commission held an emergency meeting Sunday to introduce a moratorium on reducing customer power on non-payments. There are also plans to prevent vendors from sending customer invoices, Abbott announced at a press conference on Sunday.
"Texans who have been freezing for days without electricity shouldn't face skyrocketing energy bills due to a surge in the energy market," Abbott said at the briefing.
Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said during an interview on CNN Sunday that the state would use the federal government's disaster relief to help high utility customers.
After more than 3 million people lost power in Texas last week, ERCOT announced that it had been restored to normal and power was restored for millions of customers. According to current data from PowerOutage.us, more than 30,000 people in Texas had no electricity on Sunday morning at 11:30 a.m.
According to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, more than 1,300 public water systems were disrupted by the extreme weather on Saturday and more than 15 million people were forced to boil their water on Saturday.
President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for 77 Texas counties on Saturday that unlocked state aid to Texans, grants for temporary home repairs, and low-cost loans to cover uninsured property damage. The goal of the state is to finally put all 254 counties under the declaration.