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High energy bills have Central Texans questioning their providers

In Austin and the surrounding area, some residences were confused and frustrated about why their utility bills increased so much for the month.
Credit: KVUE
Austin Energy Meter

If you checked your utility bill after the “winter storm” in January, you may have noticed a drastic increase.

In Austin and the surrounding area, some residences were confused and frustrated about why their bills increased so much for the month.

Austin Energy customers said they noticed a hike, according to a thread on Austin's subreddit.

Several people have reached out to KVUE about Atmos Energy and Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc. (PEC).

“I know it was cold during this period, and I expected a higher bill, but 350% is ridiculous! That's half my total for the entire year of 2015,” one viewer said in an email to KVUE.

KVUE reporter Terri Gruca reached out to the PEC and Atmos Energy to investigate the KVUE viewer's concerns.

“PEC has not increased rates. PEC members are beginning to receive bills for electricity used in January,” said J. Porter, PEC media relations specialist. “Last month was particularly cold, including nine days at or below freezing temperatures, plus winter precipitation that kept Central Texans at home during the work week. These factors typically lead to increased costs related to heating, and many PEC members experienced bills that are higher than expected during this time of year.”

Porter continued, “PEC members also received a bill credit for their 2016 capital credit distribution in December, so this latest bill may seem higher, as well.”

Porter informed KVUE that PEC users will also see a small increase in their March bills as well.

KVUE also received a response from Randy Hartford, Atmos Energy public relations manager.

“Due to record-setting temperatures across Texas the past few weeks, Atmos Energy customers have seen an increase in their natural gas consumption,” Hartford said. “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, on New Year’s Day more natural gas was consumed than any other day in history. Atmos Energy experienced record demands on our natural gas distribution system as well.”

He informed KVUE that it is against the law to mark up the cost of natural gas and that Atmos, by law, can’t do that.

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