Not only did the deregulated Texas electricity market fail its customers, leaving millions without power and some freezing to death last week, it also made electricity more expensive for its customers, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of federal data. Texas deregulated its electricity market in 2004, moving away from regulated utilities that both generated and delivered electricity to customers. The move to force customers to buy electricity directly from retailers would allow them to shop around for lower prices and save them money, then-Gov. George W. Bush promised at the time. Since 2004, however, Texas residential consumers paid $28 billion more for electricity than they would have paid under the state’s previous system — and that doesn’t include the customers who didn’t lose power and are now being hit with five-digit electricity bills.
The events of last week exposed the insufficiency of American infrastructure in the face of a changed climate. “What we saw in Texas was a case of cascading failures, where when you have a climate extreme like severely cold weather, that extreme weather doesn’t just affect one infrastructure system in isolation,” Sarah Fletcher, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, told E&E. “It hammered multiple infrastructure systems at the same time.” (Deregulation: Wall Street Journal $; Infrastructure: E&E, Bloomberg $, Bloomberg $)