13 Investigates: Consumer advocates demand transparency amid price spike

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Thursday, February 24, 2022
13 Investigates tracks how much you'll pay years after 2021 freeze
13 Investigates how much 2021's February freeze grid failure will cost Texans and found electric consumers can expect to pay at least $240 more every year.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- As electric prices increased this week to the highest they've been since 2021's deadly freeze, consumer advocates are once again asking state leaders to require its electric grid to provide more financial transparency regarding upgrades to the system, including how much the changes will cost you.

Alison Silverstein, an independent energy consultant, and Sandie Haverlah, with nonprofit Texas Consumer Association, filed a "reliability cost petition" with the Texas Public Utility Commission on Wednesday, asking them to "compile, report and explain the costs of all reliability measures."

The video above is from a previous story.

Issues with the state's electric grid came to light in 2021 after freezing weather forced statewide outages that left millions of Texans without power for days and contributed to nearly 250 weather-related deaths.

Experts told 13 Investigates this week's price spike was due, at least in part, to cold weather, but there was enough power to keep the lights on. In response to the blackouts in 2021, the PUC allowed prices to move higher, more often. They hope it will make the grid more reliable.

But, our 13 Investigates team found the changes will cost you hundreds more every year.

In a 13 Investigates report last week, Silverstein told us electric consumers can expect to pay 14% more on their electric bills. For the average Texas electric consumer, that is an extra $240 annually.

SEE ALSO: 13 Investigates tracks how much you'll pay years after 2021 freeze

As the state works to upgrade its electrical supply, including power plant weatherization and "reforms to the system price cap," Silverstein said no one has provided clear information on just how much reforms will cost.

Silverstein, who previously worked as a senior advisor at the Public Utility Commission of Texas, said she dug through regulatory filings, PowerPoint presentations and PUC testimony to add up all the costs and found more than $6 billion in added costs to Texas consumers.

But, those are just estimates based on filings and Silverstein is calling for the PUC to release more details on how the market and consumers will be impacted financially.

"It has been impossible to determine how the ERCOT-initiated operating measures and the PUCT-approved policy measures affect ERCOT electricity costs because no credible estimates or actual accounting have been made public," Silverstein and Haverlah wrote in this week's filing. "In the interests of public transparency and accountability, we respectfully request that the Commission immediately direct ERCOT to compile, report and explain the costs of all reliability measures implemented to date, and to provide monthly updates and data files for these costs going forward."

13 Investigates asked the PUC if it will publish an easy-to-access breakdown of costs due to reliability and weather predictions.

In a statement, the PUC said, "customer transparency is a very important part of the reforms we're making. We appreciate public input like this and will certainly consider these suggestions (as) we move forward."

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