The steep electric bills in Texas are in part a result of the state's uniquely unregulated energy market, which allows customers to pick their electricity providers among about 220 retailers in an entirely market-driven system.Deregulation is wonderful up until the moment that it isn't and innocent people are left paying for the decisions and mistakes of capitalists freed from reasonable oversight.
Under some of the plans, when demand increases, prices rise. The goal, architects of the system say, is to balance the market by encouraging consumers to reduce their usage and power suppliers to create more electricity.
But when last week's crisis hit and power systems faltered, the state's Public Utilities Commission ordered that the price cap be raised to its maximum limit of $9 per kilowatt-hour, easily pushing many customers' daily electric costs above $100. And in some cases, like Mr. Willoughby's, bills rose by more than 50 times the normal cost.
DeAndr Upshaw said his power had been on and off in his Dallas apartment throughout the storm. A lot of his neighbors had it worse, so he felt fortunate to have electricity and heat, inviting some neighbors over to warm up.
Then Mr. Upshaw, 33, saw that his utility bill from Griddy had risen to more than $6,700. He usually pays about $80 a month this time of year.
"It's a utility " it's something that you need to live," Mr. Upshaw, 33, said. "I don't feel like I've used $6,700 of electricity in the last decade. That's not a cost that any reasonable person would have to pay for five days of intermittent electric service being used at the bare minimum."