Culture / Newsy

Houston Electricity Trader Donates $400,000 of His Winter Storm Windfall to Local Nonprofit

Chef Chris Shepherd's Southern Smoke Foundation Benefits From Excessive Power Plant Profits

BY // 02.23.21

While Texans suffered mightily during the state’s power grid failure of last week, some hefty profits were made by the state’s electricity traders. At least one of those is sharing the wealth of the $400,000 windfall that he earned in a mere 17-hour span. The beneficiary is Houston Chef Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Foundation, which last week launched the Texas Winter Storm Relief Fund to aid those in the food and beverage industry affected by Winter Storm Uri.

Adam Sinn, an electricity trader who owns several micro power plants, believes that the Electricity Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) should have called an end to emergency pricing ($9,000 per megawatt hour as opposed to say $30 per hour) at noon on Thursday, rather than 9 am on Friday. During that time frame, Sinn added $400,000 to his earnings sheet.

“I understand the grid operators didn’t want to experience another wave of blackouts on Friday morning – their forecasts had their reserve margins too tight and I am sure they were being cautious. But it’s not right for generators to experience a huge windfall while Texans endured such unnecessary hardship,” Sinn says in a statement. “This is why I’m donating my profits from my plants from Thursday at noon until Friday morning, when ERCOT ended the price adder, to Southern Smoke Foundation.”

Such philanthropy is not new to the Texas A&M graduate. In 2016, Sinn pledged $1 million to the Texas A&M Foundation for scholarships. Following Tropical Storm Harvey in 2017, he contributed $1 million to the J.J. Watt Foundation through his Aspire Commodities.

In a particularly bold bit of altruism in his statement, Sinn adds,  “I encourage anyone who profited excessively to find a charity that helps Texans in need and write that check. I think it’s the right thing to do, and I hope other generation companies follow my lead.”

Sinn however is not balking at the initial emergency pricing, saying, “The governing body of ERCOT released a statement on Monday (February 15) saying the ERCOT market prices would be pinned to the price cap of $9,000 until service was restored to all power consumers. That made sense. Texas experienced blackouts because we didn’t have enough power for demand.”

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Chris Shepherd Southern Smoke
Chef Chris Shepherd’s Southern Smoke Foundation is benefiting from Adam Sinn’s donation.

Sinn is no stranger to the good works of the Southern Smoke Foundation, which sprung into action last winter when COVID-19 devastated the food and beverage industries. The foundation’s Emergency Relief Fund has since that time distributed more than $5 million to 2,500 workers nationwide. Since its founding in 2015, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $6.7 million to industry individuals in need and organizations that serve those in need.

As an investor in Houston’s Feges BBQ, Sinn was introduced to Southern Smoke Foundation by owners Erin Smith and Patrick Feges, who have been involved in the organization since its founding and he is a fan of Shepherd’s restaurants.

“Whenever a crisis hits Houston,” Sinn says, “I see Chris rising to the occasion, doing something to make a difference. I’m proud of how he represents Houston.”

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