Thousands of Texans being charged for conserving power

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on February 19, 2014 at 11:59 PM

Updated Thursday, Feb 20 at 12:00 AM

HOUSTON -- Hundreds of thousands of Texans have been charged by their power providers for not using enough power.

We have all heard the pleas, “Use as little power as you can.” But that may be costing you and you don’t even know it.

After hearing a complaint from an 11 News viewer Jeremy Desel dug into the power problem and found you may be one of thousands paying for something you did not even use.

It is something that parents have been teaching their children for years and the message is getting through, ”I consider it a personal responsibility to control your power usage. Not only is it a personal responsibility it is the responsibility that we have to each other,” said Charlie Smith.

That’s why so many electricity users make it a habit to do what they can to conserve, ”We make sure the TV is off, the lights are off, the air conditioner shuts down automatically if we are not here,” said Carleton Cole.

He found something that got his attention when he recently started shopping around for a new electricity provider, “We want to conserve energy. But you are penalized when you save energy? That is not right,” Cole said.

Saving energy should mean saving money right?

“Surprise! You did not use enough electricity so we are going to tack on a $10 fee,” Cole found.

You heard right a $9.95 fee that was right there in his energy bill, but not there every month. His energy provider calls it a Base charge on the bill, but that is not true because it is really a minimum usage charge.

There in the fine print of almost every plan from every provider available here is similar language, if your usage is less than 1000KW hours, expect a fee of anywhere from 10 to 30 dollars depending on the provider.

In the winter when usage is down is when it is most likely to hit.

We found plenty of people who had no idea that is what they had agreed to, ”It is probably in the fine print,” said Judy Roberts.

Her biggest concern is not the 10 dollars but something else.

We have all heard the desperate sounding pleas from ERCOT during high energy consumption days usually when it is really hot, or recently really cold, “Use as little power as you can or we face rolling blackouts,” is what the press releases from the agency read.

”You are trying to do the right thing. They are telling you to conserve so you are listening taking their advice and also doing what is best for the environment. And you get hit with a fee. It doesn’t seem fair at all,” Roberts said.

It didn’t hit the Cole house one month, or even two, “You are paying for something that you did not use!”

Cole got hit eight months last year.

He cannot get that 80 bucks back from the power company, but they won’t get his trust back either.

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