There are several reasons why Texas energy and utility usage has come under the spotlight since the infamous 2021 winter freeze. Even though Texas produces over 12% of all the energy in the United States, the cost of utilities has nearly doubled in recent years. According to the Texas Tribune, “The 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”.
Why is the Cost of Texas Utilities Rising?
As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February, the price of natural gas has risen by more than 200%. This has contributed to the significant increase in the cost of utility bills. Add to that the fact that Texas is now exporting a lot more natural gas to European countries bent on weaning themselves off Russian oil and gas. The result is the crushing weight of escalating utility bills for low to middle-income households.
The Texas Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
This is a federally funded program that provides emergency financial assistance to income eligible households to help them pay their home energy bills. This includes electricity, natural gas, water, and sewer service. The goal of this program is to provide temporary relief from energy burdens for people who are at risk of becoming homeless due to the high cost of utilities and other necessities like food and medicine.
As of September 1, 2017, electric providers will be able to offer low-income customers a benefit. The name of the participant on the electric bill must match that of the participant in SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program) or Medicaid. You must also be on Medicaid to qualify for the match program. It is NOT possible for the electric matching program to be enrolled by oneself.
- ID, Driver’s License, or Passport
- Proof of legal residency
- Most recent utility bill (electricity, gas, propane, water, and/or wastewater bill)
- Proof of Income for each adult member of your household
- Proof of utility disconnect or threat of disconnect past due or current bill
Victims of Domestic Violence
It is possible for you to qualify for a waiver of your electric service deposit if you are a victim of family violence. To qualify for this waiver, you will need to provide a letter of certification from the Texas Council on Family Violence.
This letter must be filled out by:
- Family violence center personnel
- Treatment physicians
- Law enforcement personnel
- Texas District Attorney or County Attorney
- Texas Attorney General’s Office
- Grantee of the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation, or
- A Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation staff member is required to fill out the letter.
The letter must be faxed directly to the retail electricity provider by using the toll-free FAX number provided by the REP. It can be obtained from the Texas Council on Family Violence’s website at https://tcfv.org/findhelp/ a copy of the deposit waiver certification letter.
The Texas Weatherization Assistance Program
The Texas Weatherization Assistance Program is intended to provide low-income Texans with an energy audit, or an examination of their home’s energy efficiency, as well as the installation of weatherization measures to boost their energy efficiency. It is designed to provide qualified low-income Texans with energy audits and energy efficiency studies.
Eligible households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line can qualify. Once the households are qualified, priority will be given to those that have young children under the age of six, the elderly, the handicapped, or those whose energy bills are the highest and their income is the lowest.
As part of the Weatherization Program, qualified residents are inspected to find out if air leaks or inefficient equipment are causing them to pay more for energy than they need to. As soon as the audit is complete, the program will provide financial assistance and installation assistance so that the home can be made more energy efficient.