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Its lights remained on during the Texas storm. He now owes $ 16,752.

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Under some plans, when demand increases, prices increase. According to the architects of the system, the aim is to balance the market by encouraging consumers to reduce their consumption and electricity suppliers to create more electricity.

But when the crisis of the past few weeks hit and power systems faltered, the State Utilities Commission ordered that the price cap be raised to its maximum limit of $ 9 per kilowatt hour, easily pushing daily electricity costs for many customers above $ 100. And in some cases, like Mr. Willoughbys, the bills have gone up over 50 times the normal cost.

Many of the people who have reported extremely high charges, including Mr. Willoughby, are customers of Griddy, a small Houston company that provides electricity at wholesale prices, which can change quickly depending on supply. and demand.

The company passes the wholesale price directly to customers, charging an additional monthly fee of $ 9.99. Most of the time, the rate is considered affordable. But the model can be risky: Last week, predicting a huge rise in wholesale prices, the company encouraged all of its approximately 29,000 customers to switch to another supplier when the storm hit. But many were unable to do so.

Katrina Tanner, a Griddy customer who lives in Nevada, Texas, said she was already billed $ 6,200 this month, more than five times what she paid in 2020. She started using Griddy on a suggestion of friends a few years ago and was happy at the time of the simplicity of listing.

As the storm unfolded over the past week, she continued to open the company’s app on her phone and see her bill go up, up, up, up, Ms. Tanner said. Griddy was able to withdraw the money she owed straight from her bank account, and she only has $ 200 left. She suspects she was only able to keep this because her bank prevented Griddy from taking more.

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