The lights are back on for almost all Texans after a disastrous week where millions saw extended power outages when the state's power grid failed to keep up with brutal winter storms.
But now a new crisis has hit many residents: Massive electric bills that some say they cannot possibly pay. The highest reported so far for one residential customer is at $17,000 — and that's just for the month to date as of yesterday.
What are the details?
In a KHOU-TV report, reporter Jason Wheeler has been covering the problem facing Texans who have variable or indexed (market rate) payment plans for paying their bills. Those types of bills fluctuate, whereas the plans selected by most folks are fixed.
Wheeler pointed out that just over the past few days, the wholesale price of one megawatt of power went from around $50 to $9,000, leading to retail customers with non-fixed plans receiving bills far beyond their budgets.
The reporter asked Texans hit with inordinate bills to send them his way, and they poured in. A father reported that his daughter's typical bill is around $50 month, but she and her roommate just received a bill for nearly $1,900 through Feb. 16.
Another person said they paid $88 last month for electricity on their 990-square-foot apartment, and their bill so far for the month is at $2,550 even though they kept the thermostat at 65 degrees.
The highest was reported by Ty Williams, who showed Wheeler screenshots of his three electric meters totaling more than $17,000 between his home, guest house, and office for the current billing period on the meters thus far. He said the total for all three was only $660 last month.
"How in the world can anyone pay that?" Williams told Wheeler. "I mean you go from a couple hundred dollars a month...there's absolutely no way. It makes no sense."
To make matters worse, customers attempting to switch electric carriers are being denied because many have refused to take on new business while they work to service current accounts amid the chaos.
The situation adds insult to injury for customers who have not even had electricity for much of the past week, and feel insulted being asked to pay even more for a service they did not adequately receive. Others who weighed in on Wheeler's Twitter feed wondered how the sky-high bills were not considered price gouging.
After millions of homes went without power for days, countless residents also experienced busted water pipes that caused devastating damage to interiors.
With that in mind, some Texans now fear that eye-popping water bills will come next.
One person tweeted to Wheeler, "Talk about kicking us when we're down... I'm afraid to see what my bill is going to be. So freaking mad about this sh**. I'm already afraid to see what they're gonna do with my water bill after having to keep our taps dripping for almost a week now."
Another added, "Glad I'm not the only one terrified about the water bill... this is going to be a mess."