Texas officials are investigating outrageous energy bills in storm price surge

While I’m trying to fill up on gas and run errands and make sure my pipes don’t burst, the last thing I can think about is a $7,000 bill from my utility company, Upshaw told CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield via Skype on Saturday.

The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT), which regulates electricity companies in Texas, said Saturday that it is studying the factors that, combined with the disruptive winter weather, are interrupting the flow of electricity to millions of Texas homes.

It also allows customers to use an emergency power supplier if their current supplier is unavailable, but this program is unlikely to apply to those who have voluntarily changed power suppliers.

CNN contacted the PUCT for clarification, but did not receive an immediate response.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott is calling an emergency meeting to discuss the situation, he said in a statement.

It’s unacceptable that Texans who have suffered days without electricity or heat in freezing temperatures are now suffering from skyrocketing energy prices, Abbott said. To protect families, I am actively working with the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House, and members of the Legislature to find solutions so Texans are not forced to pay unwarranted spikes in energy bills.

One energy company, called Griddy, suggested its customers find another supplier if prices were too high.

Upshaw told CNN that he had tried to switch from Griddy to another electricity provider, but that the new company kept postponing the startup date.

Griddy charges customers the market price, which varies with current electricity prices. Its website states that customers pay exactly the price at which we purchase electricity. But a winter storm that devastated Texas’ power grid caused Griddy’s prices to skyrocket.

In Texas, customers can opt for a flat rate instead, and Griddy began encouraging them to do so in a statement Monday.

While we value our members, we want even more, which is best for their wallets and their families, even if it means turning to our competitors, the company said.

Griddy said Thursday that he was seeking help from Texas utilities and promised to credit his customers dollar for dollar for any help.

At that point, Mr. Upshaw, a Dallas resident, maxed out the credit card he had on file with Mr. Griddy to ensure that he could not be charged more. But even as he remained in power, his bill continued to rise.

Neighbors and friends with Griddy accounts have told Upshaw that the charges have drained their entire checking account, gone into their savings account and left them unable to pay their rent, he said.

We have friends who have had no electricity for 48 hours and they came (to my house) and I said we are paying for it, maybe other people are using it, Upshaw said, adding that he is grateful to be alive and healthy.

In a statement issued Friday, the Texas Railroad Commission said it was working to keep natural gas in the state to prevent customers from getting unusually high bills in the coming weeks.

The state agency says it is working with power generators, pipeline operators and electricity regulators to ensure they have the support they need to supply natural gas.

Although the commission was created as a railroad regulator, it has been regulating the state’s oil and gas industry for nearly 100 years, according to the group’s website.

Texans have already had enough problems during this winter storm without having to worry about unexpected extra electricity costs, Commissioner Wayne Christian said in a statement. Our agency will make every effort to ensure that public authorities have sufficient time to catch up, so that consumers are not burdened with excessive burdens.

CNN’s Melissa Mahtani and Adrienne Vogt contributed to this report.

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