Houston Chronicle Sunday
Power supplier Vistra could take up to $1B hit from winter storm
Companies are beginning to sort out the big hits and windfalls, and it appears the brutal Texas freeze was a zero sum game.
Radical swings up and down depend on whether a company was a fossil fuel supplier, a generator of electricity or seller to Texas residents who are left with eye-popping bills. More than 80 deaths have been tied to the frigid snowstorm. More than 4 million customers lost power, some for days.
Vistra, the state’s biggest power supplier, said Friday that it’s estimated a one-time financial impact of $900 million to $1.3 billion due to the Texas power crisis.
Across town, Frisco-based Jerry Jones’ Comstock Resources said last week “was like hitting the jackpot” as demand amid the cold forced up prices. Natural gas from Comstock’s Haynesville Shale wells in East Texas sold on the spot market for between $15 and $179 per thousand cubic feet. That compares with under $4 the week before the snowstorm.
The fallout from the freeze is expected to forces some retail power providers to go out of business. While their customers will automatically be switched to new electricity providers, if that happens, those households will have to take the time research and recommit to a new contract with possibly a higher price.
Vistra said the final amount of its financial hit will depend on pricing and settlement date from ERCOT, potential state corrective action and the outcome of litigation arising from the event. The Irving-based parent company to TXU and other power providers to consumers, said as of Thursday it has cash and credit available totaling almost $2 billion.
It’s biggest competitor in the state, Houston-based NRG Energy, parent company to Reliant and other retail electricity providers,
delayed its year-end financial report to Monday because its CEO testified before the Texas Legislature on Thursday. Hearings continue today.
The political fallout has left Austin finger-pointing and short of solutions for sorting out a tangled, costly mess involving
the state’s residents and its energy industry that’s part of the Texas legend.
During the freezing temperatures, Vistra said, it was able to crank up production to 25 to 30 percent of power generated during the store compared with its market share of 18 percent.
A criticism that has surfaced is that companies aren’t maintaining power generation, pipelines and other infrastructure to levels that would accommodate freezing temperatures. Vistra said in a normal year, it spends about $10 million a year winterizing its infrastructure.
“The challenges brought on by the global pandemic in 2020 and the historic winter storm in Texas last week have tested our business model,” Curt Morgan, Vistra CEO said in a statement Friday. “We continue to believe that our integrated operations, prioritizing a strong balance sheet and conservative liquidity management, is the right model to remain resilient through these challenges while creating value for our stakeholders over the long-term.”
The company also reported year-end results Friday that came in below 2019. Vistra posted a profit of $636 million on revenue of $11.44 billion vs. a profit of $928 million on revenue of $11.81 billion in 2019.