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Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Sky-high natural gas prices, other expenses left CPS Energy with $1 billion bill for winter storm

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2021 at 9:25 AM

click to enlarge TWITTER / CPS ENERGY
  • Twitter / CPS Energy
CPS Energy ratepayers now have a better idea of just how much the city-owned utility may try to pass on to them to cover the cost of last month's catastrophic winter storms.

On Monday, CPS officials said they're grappling with $1 billion in expenses from fuel and wholesale electricity purchases during the historic weather event that left hundreds of thousands of San Antonians without electricity, the Express-News reports.

Among those bills are $800 million CPS owes natural gas suppliers that sold fuel at price hikes of up to 1,600% amid the storm, according to the daily. CPS also owes another $200 million to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state's power grid operator, which ordered rolling blackouts to prevent the crash of its entire system.

During a special board meeting held Monday, CPS Chief Executive Officer Paula Gold-Williams pledged to shield customers from as much of those costs as possible, the Express-News reports. The utility put a moratorium on customer disconnections last spring and has no immediate plans to resume. 

“We are attacking that [debt] with every tool that we have, both from a policy standpoint and a regulatory standpoint,” Gold-Williams said. “We’re going to negotiate ... to get that down.”

Gold-Williams said CPS is seeking state and federal and state relief and will dispute its gas suppliers' price hikes, according to the daily. Further, the utility's board voted Monday to let it apply for $500 million bank loan to cover the bills and spread out costs over a period of years.

Additionally, CPS trustees voted Monday to approve an independent probe of the utility’s performance during the storm. The city of San Antonio is also conducting a separate investigation of the utility and San Antonio Water System.

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