AUSTIN, Texas - After some Texans have reported energy bills in the thousands following the recent power outages that plagued the state this week, Austin Energy says that its customers should not expect the same.
In a release Saturday, Austin Energy said it was aware of recent media reports about massive electric bills, like how one Arlington family reported a bill of $17,000 for three meters over five days of use, and wanted to stress to its customers that "Austin Energy will not benefit financially in any way from this winter storm event."
"The customers impacted by major bill spikes are seeing electric rates controlled by variable price billing and are therefore vulnerable to sudden price swings from the wholesale energy market, both increases and decreases," said Austin Energy. "In contrast, Austin Energy’s base rates are fixed and any changes must be authorized by Austin City Council, our governing body, after a thorough rate review process."
Austin Energy says that part of its rate structure is a Power Supply Adjustment, or PSA, which is reviewed annually. The utility says that the last time the City Council directed it to reduce the PSA was in November 2020.
"Austin Energy charges customers what it costs to provide power to the community," said the utility. "It covers fuel for our power plants, the cost of electricity purchased from the grid and any net revenues or losses experienced as Austin Energy produces and sells power to the grid."
Austin Energy says it will evaluate the cost and impact of buying electricity from ERCOT, minus the net revenue from generating electricity during the storm, and will then have a better indication of the storm's financial impact on the PSA. At that point, the utility will then make recommendations to City Council.
Reuters reported last Monday that real-time wholesale market prices on the state’s power grid reached more than $9,000 per megawatt-hour late Monday morning. One megawatt-hour is equal to about 1,000 kilowatt-hours.
Austin Energy says its customers are charged only for the power consumed and will be charged at the existing rates as approved in the November 2020 rate tariff. If a customer consumed higher than average kWh, their electric bill will be higher than a normal month. If a customer consumed less than their average kWh, their bill will be less than a normal month. The average U.S. residential utility customer uses approximately 877 kWh each month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Austin Energy customers can access insight into their usage and bills at COAUtilities.com, giving information they need to manage their accounts and bills. Customers can also enroll in AutoPay while continuing to receive bills for review. Customers with questions about AutoPay can go online or call 512-494-9400