HOUSTON - The Public Utility Commission is opening an investigation into skyrocketing electric bills many Texans are getting from wholesale rate providers, such as Griddy, after prices spiked during last week's power shortage.
Other electricity providers are offering help to their own customers who are struggling to pay bills.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is vowing to scale down high bills from wholesale variable rate electricity providers. Some lawmakers are calling on the Public Utility Commission to block the use of the pricing model.
"Monday, it's $1,124.95," said Griddy customer Meghan O'Neill of her bill during last week's ice storms.
Griddy customers were in shock when their electric bills from variable rates tied to wholesale prices soared in the cold snap.
"Right now, I owe Griddy, I'm negative $3171.37," O'Neill showed us.
Another customer, Lisa Khoury in Chambers County, is hitting Griddy with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit after her bill topped $9,000 dollars.
Griddy hasn't responded to the lawsuit yet, but blames the PUC for the pricing, writing in a statement, "We intend to fight this for, and alongside, our customers for equity and accountability – to reveal why such price increases were allowed to happen as millions of Texans went without power."
Meantime, some other electricity providers are reassuring their customers their billing is not set up that way.
"For Reliant customers, we offer fixed and variable plans. But those plans, offer a single price. So they don't see the variability of the wholesale price like you may have heard in some of these extreme cases," explained Scott Burns with Reliant.
But some customers can expect somewhat higher bills from using more power during the cold snap.
The Public Utility Commission ordered providers to pause disconnections for non-payment and from sending bills.
Many providers, including Reliant, CenterPoint, TXU Energy, and Griddy say they'll offer their customers in need some payment options, such as extended payments or deferred payments.
Reliant and its parent company NRG Energy are donating $3 million to the community, including $500,000 to the Houston-Harris County Winter Storm Relief Fund and $500,000 to Reliant's CARE Program to help customers pay bills.
"We're definitely empathetic to those that are in need. So I think it's incumbent on us for people to know we have their backs," said Burns.
Meanwhile, customers like O'Neill hope there will be relief from the high Griddy bills.
"They might want to change their name to Greedy.com for your electric," said O'Neill.
Anyone who can't afford to pay a utility bill, can call 211, the United Way Hotline, for utility assistance.