The Office of Public Utility Counsel (OPUC) is actively assisting residential and consumers who have received unusually high electricity bills resulting from the winter storm power outages in February. OPUC is committed to helping our state’s millions of residential consumers receive important information and access to available resources.
REVIEW YOUR ELECTRICITY BILL AND RATE PLAN
In areas of the state where customers can choose their retail electric provider, OPUC strongly encourages residential consumers to closely examine their electricity bill and rate plan. The type of electricity price plan that a consumer chooses can make a dramatic difference on their electricity bill, especially when a consumer selects a price-indexed rate plan or variable rate plan.
OPUC strongly encourages residential consumers to review their electricity bill and rate plan. If a consumer is on a price index plan that is directly tied to wholesale electricity prices in ERCOT, the consumer’s electricity rates can significantly increase up to $10/kwh when prices are high in the ERCOT market. OPUC recommends that these consumers consider switching plans, disable autopay, contact their electricity provider to file a billing dispute, and file a complaint at the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) if the consumer is unable to reach a resolution with their electricity provider. Additionally, consumers can report incidents to the Office of Attorney General (OAG).
Residential consumers on a variable rate plan have rates that can vary according to the details in the customer’s contract with their provider. If a consumer is on a variable rate plan, the consumer should be aware that their electricity rate may change based on their contract with their electricity provider. All variable rate plans should be subject to month-to-month contracts. If a consumer is dissatisfied with their electricity bill or variable rate plan, the consumer can switch to another rate plan with their existing electricity provider or another provider. Consumers can shop around for another electricity provider on the PUC’s Power to Choose website.
Residential consumers on a fixed rate plan should not see a significant change in their electricity bill, but may temporarily have higher bills due to increased usage during the extended cold weather in January and February. Residential consumers who were without electricity the week of the Winter Storm Event should contact their provider to inform them about their power outage and review their bills to ensure they are not charged for electricity during their power outage.
PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION ORDERS
In an Emergency Open Meeting on February 21, 2021, the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) issued orders intended to protect Texas electricity customers while state leaders consider solutions following the winter storm outages. The PUC’s order immediately temporarily suspends disconnection of electric service for nonpayment for residential and small commercial consumers who reside in areas of the state open to competition where customers can choose their retail electric provider. The suspension of disconnection of electric service also applies to prepaid customers.
Per the PUC’s March 26 and July 16, 2020 COVID-19 orders, retail electric providers are required to offer customers a deferred payment plan if requested. The orders do not apply to consumers served by municipally owned utilities, like Austin Energy or CPS Energy, or to electric cooperatives.
OPUC will be actively participating in the PUC’s recently announced investigation of the winter storm outages to ensure that strong safeguards are put in place to protect consumers from high electricity prices during this extreme cold weather event and future weather events. Our agency has been working tirelessly around the clock to help the millions of residential and small commercial consumers across the state that lost their electricity and water service from the Winter Storm Event. We are strongly committed to doing everything we can to help consumers get through this crisis, and we encourage you to contact our office if you need further assistance with electricity and water service issues.
Residential consumers with questions about their electricity and water bill should contact OPUC at 1-877-839-0363. Please follow us on social media at https://twitter.com/OPUCTX or https://www.facebook.com/opuctx for more consumer tips and helpful information.