Some Houstonians face electric bills totaling over $1,000 due to winter storm

Some Houstonians are getting hit skyrocketing electric bills in the thousands of dollars since this weeks' ice storm.  Some call it price gouging, but others blame the state for the power shortage. 

"Monday, it's $1124.95," said new mom Meghan O'Neill.

O'Neill was reading her electric bill from GRIDDY just for Monday. 

"My house is 62 degrees and I've got a baby.  So she's wearing three layers.  We're all bundled up," she said.

O'Neill says wholesale electricity provider GRIDDY was saving her money on typical weather days when the rates were low. But she discovered her bills skyrocketed as temperatures nosedived this week.   

Texans cannot be under rotating outage for more than 12 hours, commission orders

The Public Utility Commission of Texas has ordered that a rotating power outage for a customer cannot last more than 12 hours after the Electric Reliability Council of Texas told transmission companies to reduce demand on the system earlier this week.

"Tuesday's bill is $1449.32.  So right now, I owe GRIDDY, I'm negative $3171.37," she said.

"On a normal day, that kind of plan would likely save you around 15%," explained Bruce Bullock with the Maguire Energy Institute at Southern Methodist University, explaining variable rate electricity plans.  "On a day like we've had the past four or five days, you're going to be paying quite a bit at the maximum wholesale rate."

Bullock explains that the power shortage caused real-time wholesale market prices on the state's power grid to go from about $50 per megawatt-hour before the storm, to more than $9000 dollars per megawatt-hour on Monday morning.

"If the state hadn't had that much of a power shortage, it certainly wouldn't have risen to that price. That price is meant to reflect scarcity," said Bullock. 

GRIDDY emailed customers before the storm, urging them to switch to fixed-rate providers, writing, "We expect daily electricity charges to be significantly higher through Tuesday." The email included directions to switch and links to other plans.

O'Neill says she saw the email after the storm hit and is now trying to switch.  

"It's like do I feed my family or do I run the heat? Which one do I do?" said O'Neill.  

GRIDDY has not responded to our request for an interview.

GRIDDY sent us an automated email response saying customers can sign up for a payment plan, but must agree not to switch providers until their bill is paid off.