The electric bill has come due as the severe winter storms last month continue to claim victims.
The biggest electric power co-op in Texas is headed for bankruptcy, citing a disputed bill from the state’s grid operator.
Brazos Electric Power Cooperative Inc., the largest and oldest in Texas, is one of dozens of providers facing huge charges.
The cold snap knocked out nearly half of the state’s power plants last month, leaving 4.3 million people without heat or light for days.
At the heart of the problem was the inability to meet record demands for power. When companies such as Brazos found they did not have enough power to supply the grid, they were required to buy extremely high-cost replacement power and cover other firms’ unpaid fees.
The operator of the Texas power grid, Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), on Friday said Brazos has $2.1 billion in unpaid bills. The total cost to co-op members during the entirety of 2020 was only $774 million for power.
The damage caused was unprecedented and the charges “could not have been reasonably anticipated or modeled,” Executive Vice President Clifton Karnei said in a bankruptcy court declaration.
The cooperative on Feb. 25 told ERCOT that it wouldn’t pay the $2.1 billion sum, and Karnei resigned from ERCOT’s board of directors, according to court papers.
Brazos supplies electricity to more than 660,000 consumers across the state.
The Texas Attorney General’s office is investigating the blackout, calling for documents on the outages, pricing and emergency.
ERCOT triggered the squeeze when it pushed up rates. Its service fees were 500 times the usual rate, according to industry executives.
“Brazos Electric suddenly finds itself caught in a liquidity trap that it cannot solve with its current balance sheet,” Karnei wrote in the declaration.