New Braunfels Utilities officials outlined additional measures on Monday to help their customers at a time when a combination of factors — a heat wave and drought, global energy market volatility and power grid regulatory changes — drive up electricity bills.
NBU recently announced that its customers will see interim adjustments to the Electricity Cost Recovery Adjustment, or PCRA, portion of their electricity bill for the months of August and September.
At a Monday morning news conference, NBU chief executive Ian Taylor said the utility was urging customers who were struggling to pay their bills to call or email NBU customer service. to set up a payment plan.
“We work one-on-one with each customer who calls to try to find solutions to help them,” Taylor said. “We’re waiving late fees to make sure we’re helping people who have difficulty paying.”
Contact NBU Customer Service at 830-629-8400 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, Taylor said NBU does not disconnect service for defaulting customers during high summer temperatures. Service disconnections would resume when temperatures drop in the fall.
Taylor also suggested customers call the utility’s Conservation and Customer Solutions department at 830-629-8925 to schedule a personal consultation or assessment.
Consultations and assessments are also available for water use.
“We have automatic alerts that our customers can program through our system so that when their meter reaches a certain amount of electricity or the dollar amount they have used, they can receive an SMS alerting them so they can monitor their thermostat or whatever they want to take,” Taylor said.
The New Braunfels Food Bank operates the NBU Bill Payment Assistance Program for customers in need of financial assistance. Program information is available at nbutexas.com.
The main point of contention with customers has been the PCRA charges, which in many cases accounted for a very large percentage of the electricity bill.
NBU said customers will see interim adjustments to the PCRA portion of their electricity bill for this month and next as electricity consumption is high.
Beginning September 30, NBU customers will see a reduction of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour in the PCRA portion of their bill. Overall, this represents an 11.95% reduction in the electrical portion of the bill.
This reduction will delay the collection of expenses incurred during the winter storm of 2021, known as winter storm Uri, which represented 28% of the PCRA.
For a customer using 1,400 kilowatt hours per month, the winter storm recovery portion of the ECRP was approximately $29.40.
NBU will resume collection of the winter storm recovery portion of ECRP this fall.
The remaining 72% of the ECRP is due to energy market volatility caused by escalating natural gas prices, which have risen more than 200% since last year, mainly due to global unrest caused by the war in Ukraine and that Texas is exporting more natural gas than ever before.
In December 2021, natural gas was selling for $2.71 per million Btu, according to the US Energy Information Administration. The price of natural gas reached $8.14 in May.
Natural gas is the primary fuel used to generate electricity — 44% of state-generated electricity starts with natural gas, according to NBU.
The August daily cost for a residential customer with 1,400 kilowatt hours is $6.36 per day, a decrease of 86 cents per day from the July rate.
In detail, that’s 13.62 cents per kilowatt hour for a bill based on 1,400 kilowatt hours of usage and the current Texas electricity price range, according to EcoWatch and Wattbuy, is 8.8 to 18 cents per kilowatt hour. .
The PCRA is not a fixed rate. This is variable, and each customer is billed based on their individual usage.
The PCRA rate was 7.5 cents per kilowatt hour in July, compared to 3.3 cents in July 2021. The winter storm recovery portion of the PCRA through July 2021 and 2022 was 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour.
One factor that impacted bills this summer includes scorching hot weather for an extended period of time, causing air conditioners to work harder. New Braunfels has seen more than 40 days of 100-degree temperatures so far this year, compared to an average of nine such days.
Another critical factor, Taylor said, is the cost of regulatory changes made to the electricity market by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the agency that manages the state’s electric grid, in the wake of the storm. winter of 2021, when millions of Texans were without power for days. Sub-freezing temperatures after a combination of cold statewide weather and soaring demand for energy shut down power plants as well as the natural gas facilities that supplied them with fuel.
ERCOT no longer prioritizes providing cheap electricity to Texans, but its primary focus is grid reliability, especially in extremely hot or cold weather.
The new approach to grid operation involves requiring power plants to be online and available when needed. This means paying producers a prescribed price to operate no matter what.
Before the winter storm of 2021, power plants started or stopped depending on market demand.