HOUSTON — The winter storm that paralyzed Texas was months ago, so why could CenterPoint customers be paying the price for years to come?
Natural gas spike
If you use CenterPoint, you may have gotten a notice talking about Texas winter storm securitization. But what does that mean? When the winter storm hit, natural gas wells and pipelines froze. The little natural gas that was available was extremely expensive. How expensive? According to reports, CenterPoint ended up paying $1.1 billion.
Bonds requested small bill increase
To pay off that huge bill, the company is now asking state regulators for permission to issue bonds — basically borrowing money from investors. Called “customer rate relief bonds,” they would spread that billion dollars over ten years. According to reports, for the average bill of around $30, the increase would be around $2 to $5 a month starting next year.
No bonds? Cost could be even higher
So what happens if the bonds are not approved? CenterPoint warns the monthly fee could be as high as $40 a month, more than doubling the average bill. But there is precedent for financing like this. CenterPoint used a similar strategy after Hurricane Ike in 2008 to recover repair costs. Either way, you can expect higher bills next year, but we will have to wait and see how big those increases will be.