OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As temperatures begin to warm up across the region following a historic winter storm, Oklahomans are bracing for an increase in energy bills.
When temperatures dipped to record lows across the state, OG&E was forced to implement rolling power outages in order to prevent the Southwest Power Pool’s grid from becoming overloaded.
Now that the weather has stabilized, Oklahomans are concerned about what their energy bills will look like in the coming months.
In Texas, many customers are seeing utility bills in the thousands following the winter storm.
“One of the main differences between Texas and Oklahoma is that their electric grid is largely unregulated, and so they don’t have these backstops of the Corporation Commission, or large organizations like the rural electric cooperatives to be that backstop,” said Secretary of Energy and Environment Kenneth Wagner.
On Monday, Oklahoma state leaders gathered together to announce that they are doing everything they can to prevent the same thing from happening to Oklahoma residents.
Wagner said that he doesn’t want Oklahomans to worry about their bills in the coming weeks.
“We need to understand that the vast majority of Oklahomans will not see a dramatic increase in their energy bills as a result of these rising gas costs,” said Wagoner.
However, Wagoner says most customers will see some sort of increase due to increased usage.
As arctic temperatures stuck around in Oklahoma, heaters worked almost nonstop to keep homes warm. As a result, Wagoner says Oklahomans will see their bills increase due to increased usage.
“So your bill, at the same gas costs and fuel costs, will reflect proportionately the amount of increased usage that you did as a result of this historic storm,” he said.
As for the increased rates charged to utility companies, Wagoner says those rates will be passed on to consumers, but not right away.
“The vast majority of Oklahomans’ only increases will be a direct result of their usage in this most immediate billing cycle,” he said.
Wagoner warns that there are some areas of Oklahoma where residents get their gas from a non-regulated gas provider. At this point, it is unclear what their costs will be.
“So there is this small portion of unregulated gas systems that we don’t really have an understanding of exactly how they will bill. So it is a very small number of people comparatively, but that possibility does exist,” he said.
At the same time, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter called on utility providers to put a temporary stop to automatic withdrawals to make sure that Oklahomans won’t be surprised by a larger bill.
Officials say they plan to ask the federal government for more assistance to help homeowners and renters who suffered damage from the winter storm.