deandre upshaw energy bill texas 01
'Very shocking': Texas man receives energy bill for nearly $7,000
04:23 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

The Texas attorney general says a lawsuit he filed against the energy company Griddy will keep about 24,000 Texans from having to pay $29.1 million in unpaid bills related to last month’s winter storms.

“My office sued Griddy Energy, under the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, to hold them accountable for their escalation of last month’s winter storm disaster by debiting enormous amounts from customer accounts as Texans struggled to survive the storm,” AG Ken Paxton said Tuesday in a statement.

The company on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, noting more than $29 million owed to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which operates the state’s electric grid. That form of bankruptcy allows a company to restructure its debts and reorganize to pay creditors back over time.

Through the bankruptcy plan, Griddy will “release all outstanding payment obligations for those Texas consumers who were unable to pay their energy bills due to the high prices charged during the storm,” the attorney general’s office said.

And Paxton said his office is working with the company “in ongoing good faith negotiations to attempt to address additional relief” for customers who have already paid energy bills stemming from the storms.

Griddy did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment. In an online post announcing the bankruptcy filing, Griddy put the blame on ERCOT.

“The actions of ERCOT destroyed our business and caused financial harm to our customers,” Griddy Chief Executive Officer Michael Fallquist said in a statement.

‘No choice but to power down’

While most Texans and Americans pay a fixed rate for electric power, Griddy works by connecting customers to the wholesale market for electricity – which is more volatile – for a monthly fee of $9.99. When power generators failed in last month’s storms and demand for heating shot up, ERCOT raised the price of electricity to the legal limit of $9 per kilowatt hour and kept it there for several days.

Griddy customers who didn’t lose power were hit with massive electric bills that were auto-debited from their bank accounts. The state attorney general’s office received more than 400 consumer complaints against Griddy in less than two weeks’ time, it previously said.

ERCOT within days of the storm revoked Griddy Energy’s right to work in the state’s electricity market for lack of payment. Following that decision, Griddy said it had “(n)o choice but to power down.”

The attorney general announced this month he was suing Griddy Energy and Griddy Holdings for “false, misleading, and deceptive advertising and marketing practices,” alleging the company misled customers and downplayed the incredible risk of its pricing scheme, which charges the most when customers are most vulnerable.

An independent monitor for the Public Utility Commission of Texas recently found ERCOT kept prices too high for nearly two days during the storm, leading to $16 billion in overcharges.

Another public utility commissioner resigns

Meanwhile, another commissioner with the Public Utility Commission of Texas resigned this week, according to a statement from Gov. Greg Abbott. Commissioner Arthur D’Andrea resigned at Abbott’s request, a news release from the governor’s office said.

“I will be naming a replacement in the coming days who will have the responsibility of charting a new and fresh course for the agency,” Abbott said. “Texans deserve to have trust and confidence in the Public Utility Commission, and this action is one of many steps that will be taken to achieve that goal.”

Commission Chairperson DeAnn Walker and Commissioner Shelly Botkin also resigned in the wake of the winter storm, CNN has reported. D’Andrea had been the PUC’s Commissioner since 2017 and was named by the governor to serve as the head of the commission following Walker’s departure.

CNN’s Eric Levenson and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.