Updated at 2:59: to include Patrick’s statement.
AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday was to hold an emergency meeting with key lawmakers to discuss ways to prevent spikes in Texans’ energy bills after millions of state residents have endured days of blackouts and water outages.
The Republican governor scheduled a virtual, mid-afternoon huddle with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan and eight other lawmakers in response to reports of ruinously high bills for Texas power customers who aren’t on fixed-rate plans.
As wholesale prices jumped from as low as 2 cents per kilowatt-hour – and from 7 cents, usually – to $9 per kilowatt-hour, some homeowners have already been hit with bills topping $5,000 for just a few days of electricity.
“It is unacceptable for Texans who suffered through days in the freezing cold without electricity or heat to now be hit with skyrocketing energy costs,” Abbott said in a statement before his meeting. He and lawmakers would seek “solutions to ensure that Texans are not on the hook for unreasonable spikes in their energy bills,” he added.
Patrick, the Senate’s presiding officer, noted exorbitant bills hitting Texans in the deregulated electricity market who have signed up for variable-rate or indexed plans.
“This is just wrong,” Patrick said in a statement that linked to a national publication that quoted stories by WFAA-TV in Dallas and KPRC-TV in Houston. “We are going to fix it. We can’t allow this to stand.”
At Abbott’s request, lawmakers in both the Senate and House have scheduled hearings at which they will investigate what went wrong with electricity generation and management of the state’s transmission grid that permitted more than 4 million Texans to lose power and suffer through days of icy cold weather.
Abbott’s snap Saturday huddle fit the pattern of numerous conference calls he held last year amid the coronavirus pandemic, usually with about 10 lawmakers – often, with about eight Republicans and two Democrats.
Saturday’s meeting was to include Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and her House counterpart, Appropriations Chairman Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood.
North Richland Hills GOP Sen. Kelly Hancock, who heads the Senate Business and Commerce Committee, and his vice chairman, Jacksonville Republican Robert Nichols, also were to be on the call, along with Brownsville Democratic Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., the vice chairman of Senate Finance.
From the House, in addition to Phelan and Bonnen, participants were to include State Affairs Committee Chairman Chris Paddie, R-Marshall; Energy Resources Committee Chairman Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth; and Houston Democratic Rep. Ana Hernandez, the vice chairwoman of State Affairs.