INSANE Texas Blackout Electric Bill
Updated: Mar 10
I just got my electric bill from Direct Energy. It covers from February 3rd to March 5th, you know, the month when Texas had its major Blackout. During the Blackout, power prices in Texas reached $9,000 per megawatt hour, or $9 per kilowatt hour - about 100x the average retail rates of $0.09/kWh. Soon, folks were reporting outrageous electric bills totaling thousands and thousands of dollars (mostly from a now defunct retail company called Griddy).
I kept getting questions about my electric bill from family and friends outside the state - would we also have insane electric bills? I wrote a blog explaining that because we're on Direct Energy's "Free Nights" plan, where we get free (yes, totally free) power from 9PM-9AM, I expected our electric bill to go up maybe $25.
I was laughably wrong.
I went back and checked my bill from last year - $47.68 for 1,413 kWh's. That's an effective rate of $0.033/kWh. That month, we didn't get a refer-a-friend credit of $50 - if we had, our bill would have been negative. Here's that bill:
During February 2021, winter temperatures were much colder for much longer than February 2020. We're in an all electric home (heat pump, water tank, electric car...) and I knew we'd use more power than we did last year, even though we were without power for 33 hours. I was right.
After looking at last year's bill, I noticed that our energy rate from Direct Energy actually declined, from $0.179/kWh to $0.15/kWh during peak hours. Our local distribution company, Oncor, also reduced its charges from $0.038/kWh last year to $0.037/kWh this year. So last year, my peak hour rate was roughly $0.22/kWh, compared to this year's $0.19/kWh.
Our total power usage during February 2021 was 1,764 kWh's - about 20% higher than last year. But our bill didn't go up 20%. Here's the number you've been waiting for:
Yup. That's it. That's our total bill during the month of the Great Texas Blackout of 2021. Our bill actually went down from last year compared to this year, despite using more power. Our effective rate was $0.02/kWh.
Notice that we got a $50 refer-a-friend credit ("Referral Rewards Credit"). That doesn't always happen, but if we had not received a refer-a-friend credit, our bill would have been $85.93 for the month - or about $38 higher than last year's bill. And I know for certain we used $25 of that energy in the days surrounding the Blackout.
Rate plans and rate design shouldn't require folks to be an energy geek to figure out how to save money for their families. If your electric utility has smart meters, all their customers should be allowed to access their data easily. Here in Texas, we can access our smart meter data easily through www.smartmetertexas.com. That's how I was able to pull my meter data quickly, and easily. It also helped me decide which electric rate plan to be on. As a result, we chose a Free Nights Plan with Direct Energy. We've shifted about 80% of our power usage to night. It still took a fair amount of understanding how electric rates work for us to select this plan. Texas (and any other state with smart meters and complicated rates) should create an easy calculator that does all the math, and uses a customer's real smart meter data, to compare different rate plans.
It sure helped reduce anxiety knowing that our electric bill wasn't going to spike at the end of the month. Just one less thing to worry about after the blackout. In the cold. Without water. No warm food. No trash service. Bad internet. In a pandemic. All electric utilities should want to help put their customers at ease during such a hard time. And state regulators, too.
Get $50 for everyone you refer to Direct Energy and they get $50 too. Just tell them to include your Referral ID: 3Q1LQ6 when they enroll. Go to directenergy.com/refer-a-friend for details.