Limiting price increases

Although electricity rates are rising for customers across Texas, Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS) has been able to limit price increases, and the average GEUS customer pays $58 a month less than the average customer in the Metroplex, according to GEUS General Manager Alicia Hooks.

Although electricity rates are rising for customers across Texas, Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS) has been able to limit price increases, and the average GEUS customer pays $58 a month less than the average customer in the Metroplex, according to GEUS General Manager Alicia Hooks.

GEUS customers currently pay $124 for 1,000 kWh, while people living in surrounding communities receiving power from retail electric providers pay on average $182, the utility reported.

“Our diverse mixture of generation resources is no accident. GEUS proactively maintains diversity to hedge against cyclical price spikes like we are currently seeing in the natural gas market,” Hooks said in a news release.

GEUS’s electric generation portfolio consists of long-term purchase power agreements from wind, solar farms and natural gas-fired generation. GEUS also consistently produces its own power from natural gas-fired plants in Greenville.

Jimmy Dickey, marketing and accounts manager for GEUS, explained that the utility’s rates have risen only slightly over the same time a year ago. Because GEUS can generate its own power, it can sell surplus electricity back to the grid and use the proceeds to keep rates lower for its customers.

GEUS is one of 72 municipally owned utilities in the state and operates in a closed market, unlike investor-owned utilities, Dickey explained. It operates in a 96-square-mile service area and has roughly 12,000 customers in Greenville proper and about 3,000 in nearby rural areas.

In other areas of the state, Texans are seeing skyrocketing home electric bills this spring and summer, with many customers paying at least 50% more than they did for electric bills at this time last year, the Texas Tribune reported.

 “I am worried people are going to be shocked,” John Ballenger, vice president at Texas retail electric provider Champion Energy, told the Texas Tribune. “Realizing this is 50 or 60 or 70% higher than what they had paid before, I’m just not sure it’s real to people yet. If it’s not, it will be very, very soon when the bills hit this summer.”

Elevated utility bills have primarily been driven by the price of natural gas, which has shot up more than 200% since late February when Russia, a top gas-producing country, invaded Ukraine and upended the world’s energy market, the Texas Tribune reported.

Since then, Texas, the leading natural gas-producing state in the U.S., has not been able to keep offering its own residents cheap energy.

Since the war in Ukraine began, Texas has been exporting more natural gas than ever before, sending much of it to Europe as many countries try to wean themselves off Russian gas. Congress lifted a longtime ban on exporting U.S. oil and gas in 2015, which opened world markets to Texas oil and gas producers.

But demand for natural gas has also been growing at home as more people and businesses continue to flock to Texas. A hotter-than-normal spring and early summer also have driven demand for power to record-high levels. Most Texas power plants run on natural gas.

“We’ve seen Texas gas go over to Europe, which has then created a supply issue locally in the state of Texas,” said Cory Kuchinsky, chief financial officer and treasurer for CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility that provides energy to more than 1 million customers. “Our customers feel the real-time impact of changing fuel costs.”

The hike in utility bills comes during difficult financial times for many Texans, who have also been facing high prices at grocery stores and the fuel pump due to growing inflation.

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