Even before the February 2021 winter storm began, Centerpoint Energy sent out an email to all of their customers asking them to turn down thermostats to conserve natural gas in those coming days. It was a big ask, but as we saw what eventually happened in Texas, a necessary ask. In a major stroke of luck, I'm not aware anyone went without their natural gas down here in SWOK because a majority of people pitched in and lived in a cool house for a few days. As the news is pouring out of Texas about their insanely high energy bills now, it has everyone wondering what exactly can we expect here in the Sooner State?

Centerpoint Enery has followed up with an email detailing an expected higher bill, but it's worded very carefully.

Thank you for your continued resiliency through the recent unprecedented winter weather event.

We want to send a big thank you to customers like you who helped us conserve natural gas to help the greater community. Your actions helped ensure the integrity of the natural gas system and enabled it to stay strong during a period of high demand.

Throughout this difficult time, CenterPoint Energy’s focus remained on ensuring that our customers had natural gas service by managing the need for natural gas supply in real time. Our natural gas systems performed well. As a result of this severe winter weather driven by the recent storm, you likely used more natural gas for home heating, which could mean a higher bill next month.

We understand the impact this may have, and we’re here to help. Please know, the Company is reviewing all available options and working closely with regulators on a state-by-state basis, as well as natural gas suppliers and pipelines, to lessen the bill impact to customers.

As always, customers who need payment assistance can visit CenterPointEnergy.com/PaymentAssistance or log into CenterPointEnergy.com/MyAccount to request a payment extension or arrangement.

 

You notice, they're not making any mention of the gas rate hikes that took place in the days before the snow came, nor do they mention that as a possible reason bills could be higher. Instead, they straight say "As a result of this severe winter weather driven by the recent storm, you likely used more natural gas for home heating, which could mean a higher bill next month." This eludes that the price hike might not hit home, but bills could be higher to reflect the actual amount of gas you may have used. It really gives each of us hope that we won't be raked over the coals like those poor Texans.

All the same, they mention that they're working with "regulators" on a state-to-state basis to see how to best recoup the money they spent on fuel over those ten days. Oklahoma Gas & Oil (OG&E) has petitioned regulators already to raise the set regulated price going forward to offset their gas bill. This is what OG&E sent their customers this week:

Dear customers,

In the aftermath of February’s extreme cold, you may be wondering how the weather could affect your utility bill.

During this weather event, our focus was on limiting the effects of temporary service interruptions and ensuring you had the power you needed to keep your families warm. We spent about $1 billion on natural gas to ensure we met the increased demand. That's more than we spent on fuel for all of 2020.

To minimize the impact to you, we're working with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC) to spread the recovery of these fuel costs over 10 years. This is a two-step approach:

  • Step 1: We're asking the OCC to allow us to recover a portion of the fuel costs beginning in April.
  • Step 2: We're asking the OCC to approve spreading the remainder of the associated fuel costs over 10 years, beginning in 2022.

If approved, the average residential customer can expect to see a fuel cost-related increase of less than 10%.

Separate from fuel costs, you may also see a higher February bill if you used more electricity during the intense cold than you normally do. If you took conservation measures, like lowering your thermostat, you may not see as much of an increase.

On one hand, I understand them wanting to recoup their losses. On the other hand though, when gas prices are way cheaper than the regulated set price, consumers don't see those savings in their bill. It's a set price and everyone pays it. I'm torn. Both Centerpoint and OG&E are publicly traded Fortune 500 companies... They play the Wall Street game and often win. Centerpoint Energy nets billions of dollars in profit each year, part of me thinks they have the emergency funds in their bank accounts to do what is right here. If they were businesses run like the USPS, a service to the people that isn't expected to make profits, I'd feel differently. But at some point, we have to quit bailing out huge companies just to save their stock price.