As the summer months roll in, high electricity bills from the winter storm in February continue to shock customers.
Most recently, the CEO of Tarrant Area Food Bank said they received an energy bill for about $58,000 from MidAmerican Energy Services. Typically they pay between $8,000 to $10,000 a month to keep the lights on and store food.
“I was just shocked. Like, I couldn’t believe it. That’s an enormous bill. That’s a big line item, so I’m just trying to figure out what is this from and why,” said Julie Butner, CEO of the Tarrant Area Food Bank.
She said the bill reflected four days during the winter storm when the entire state dealt with massive outages. Butner said they were without power for about 72 hours and even lost food during that time.
“So just in a short period of time we got this enormous bill which was shocking, in and of itself, but then to look back and say, ‘Well hey wait a minute, you know, during some of that time we weren’t even using our energy because we had lost power,” said Butner.
The nonprofit is two years into its three-year contract with MidAmerican Energy Services, an Iowa-based company, and currently has a fixed rate.
“I think it’s egregious that customers would be exposed to these kinds of charges when they’re expecting to be on a fixed-price contract with, you know, a company that’s owned by Warren Buffett should be more reputable than that,” said Mike Brasovan, president of Thigbe.
He’s the food bank’s energy consultant. Brasovan negotiates the contracts and manages the billing for the nonprofit and 17 other clients who also received large bills.
“We’re not going to pay the bill. We’ve let them (MidAmerican Energy Services) know that we were disputing the charges for the contract,” said Brasovan.
Brasovan believes the energy company is trying to pass along some of the extra costs from the winter event onto customers, which he believes is a breach of contract.
He said the energy company explained that here’s a clause that allows them to distribute the costs that it can’t control related to changes in how the market is run. Brasovan disputes that and said there was no change in the law or business practice by ERCOT.
He’s also filed a formal complaint with the Texas Public Utility Commission because he believes the energy company violated the contract which he said was based on a fixed amount and protect clients from paying ancillary services fees.
“I suspect it’s going to take at least a couple of months unless MidAmerican comes to the table and realizes you know this wasn’t the best move for us and we need to make it right and they decide to not charge those charges,” said Brasovan.
Tarrant Area Food Bank said $58,000 is equivalent to 300,000 meals it could provide the community.
“This is really upsetting, I would like to ask the company do you realize the impact that this financial burden would have, not just on the food bank but on the community in terms of not being able to utilize that funding to provide meals?” questioned Butner
The nonprofit is run on a fixed budget based on donations. Tarrant Area Food Bank feeds around half a million people a year.
Brasovan said at this point, they don’t plan on renewing their contract with MidAmerican Energy unless something drastic changes.
NBC 5 reached out to MidAmerican Energy Services and waiting for a response.