Texas Deep Freeze Could Increase MN Gas Bills…By a Lot
If CenterPoint Energy is your natural gas provider, expect to see a substantial increase to your bill.
Remember that deep freeze that hit the south back in February? Remember how grateful you were that it was them and not us and how you laughed at how better-equipped Minnesota is for snow and cold than Texas is?
Well, the joke may now be on us as Minnesota's largest natural gas provider CenterPoint Energy looks to increase our gas bills to recoup the hit they took. According to a recent article by ARS Technica, CenterPoint Energy spent an additional $500 million on natural gas the week in February that Texas was shut down by winter storms. To recoup the costs, CenterPoint Energy has now asked Minnesota's utility commission for permission to add a surcharge to Minnesotan's bills that includes a 8.75 percent interest. ARS Technica reports that each CenterPoint Energy customer would shoulder a burden of $300-$400 beginning as soon as May.
"CenterPoint claims that beginning the surcharge in May will be beneficial to customers since the interest charges will be lower as soon as the company’s gas bill is paid off," writes ARS Technica. Xcel Energy -- Minnesota's other major gas provider -- will also be seeking to recover additional expenses from February's deep freeze in Texas, but says it won't be charging customers interest.
ARS Technica reports that the gas and electric markets in Texas are "lightly regulated and highly competitive," leading many companies to provide utilities for as cheaply as possible. To cut costs, companies skimped on winterizing their equipment which obviously took a huge toll during February's unprecedent cold blast. Gas lines literally froze, and the price of natural gas soared to 70 times what it normally is in Minnesota.
“The ineptness and disregard for common-sense utility regulation in Texas makes my blood boil and keeps me up at night,” Katie Sieben, chairwoman of the Minnesota Public Utility Commission, told The Washington Post. “It is maddening and outrageous and completely inexcusable that Texas’s lack of sound utility regulation is having this impact on the rest of the country.”