A week after the start of the winter storm that hit Texas, the snow has melted, but the nightmare for residents is practical and economical. More than half of the 29 million residents of the State continue without drinking water due to possible contamination derived from the rupture of hundreds of pipes; They are instructed to boil the water before using it. Power outages continue in several homes, while the first electricity bills appear for a week in which dozens of towns have set their historical record for minimum temperature. The unprecedented demand for energy skyrocketed its price up to 70 times higher than usual. The governor, Greg Abbott, called an emergency meeting with state authorities on Saturday to discuss a bill that protects customers from abusive prices.
Zack, 30, has not had water at home for six days. This Saturday he went to HEB and Wellgreen supermarkets to buy bottled water, but the shelves were empty. The shortage of basic supplies continues to be common in the State, both in small towns and cities. Finally, Zack drove to the Thirteen restaurant in downtown Houston (the largest city in Texas and the fourth in the US), where a group of volunteers were handing out jerry cans at the piece rate. Although he is no longer one of the more than four million Texans who were left in the dark, he fears for the electricity bill. “The companies are going to have a lot of problems to be able to collect,” he warned.
The electrical system of Texas has a peculiarity with respect to the rest of the country. It is a market with little regulation and about 220 suppliers. The electricity demand this week caused prices to multiply in an unprecedented way. The result, according to local media such as CNN and The New York Times, is that there are customers – who did not have a fixed rate contracted, and they paid 9 dollars per kilowatt hour (kWh)– with bills up to 70 times higher than usual, even reaching $ 17,000 (14,000 euros) in some establishments.
“It is unacceptable that Texans who suffered for days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat are now being affected by rising energy costs,” Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement Saturday after meeting with local authorities to analyze the situation. Abbott added that it is working “to develop solutions that ensure that Texans are not affected by irrational spikes in their electric bills.”
In theory, Lila Niko, 29, once again has electricity and drinking water at home. But when you turn on the tap, just a “very, very weak” jet falls, which does not even allow you to brush your teeth. In addition to having to take a shower at the house of some friends, this Saturday she was forced to go to collect the bottles of water that were given away at the Thirteen. Regarding the possible increase in his electricity bill, he is categorical: “I am going to speak with the company because what happened is the fault of the authorities, they should have notified us so that we can prepare.” She hopes that they will pay more attention to her than the water company, which she has called repeatedly to solve her problem, but they only refer her to other telephone numbers where she cannot find a solution either.