CPS bills won’t include extra costs from winter outages for now; CEO stops short of promising it won’t ever happen

Pct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores asks CPS Energy CEO for commitment to bear high fuel costs, or getting the state or ERCOT to bear it

SAN ANTONIO – CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams says the electric utility will use “every tool in our toolbox” to get the cost of last week’s power crisis down. Still, she stopped short on Tuesday of promising that customers would not eventually shoulder that cost.

The price of natural gas, which CPS uses for its gas system and for generating electricity, shot up 16,000 percent as demand surged in the winter weather last week. Though CPS doesn’t have a final tally yet of the total cost, Gold-Williams has said it will be “huge” and has previously talked about spreading the costs out over a decade or more.

Gold-Williams appeared via video-conference at the Bexar County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday, where Precinct 1 Commissioner Rebeca Clay-Flores tried to get her to commit CPS to either bearing that cost itself or getting the state or ERCOT, the grid’s operator, to bear it.

“I want to make sure that whether it’s over 10 years or 20 years, our customers are not footing the bill,” Clay-Flores said.

The CPS CEO said that was the utility’s goal, but did not directly commit to the cost reaching customers in some capacity.

“We will pursue federal dollars. We will work with legislators. We will focus on negotiation and all other avenues. But for whatever bill we had, what we would do is smooth out the cost,” Gold-Williams said.

Fuel costs are typically passed down to CPS customers through the “fuel adjustment” charge on their bills. However, Gold-Williams has said the utility is trying to avoid presenting its customers with the kind of staggeringly high bills seen elsewhere around the state.

For now, Gold-Williams said CPS is not yet passing on any of the costs as it tries to figure out what it can do about the total cost.

The utility has also temporarily removed the “My Energy Portal” online option as it adjusts bills. Though it also suspended automatic payments, Gold-Williams told reporters on Tuesday those would be resumed “over the next day or so.”

Related: CPS Energy will withhold winter storm charges while seeking funds to alleviate costs


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