Will my next bill be higher because rates went up due to this event?

We are still assessing the power supply costs from this emergency event for the state of Texas, but our rates will remain competitive and affordable for our customers. Our customers will not be experiencing the astronomical bills reported in the media as a result of the natural gas price increases from suppliers.

Our KPUB Board of Trustees issued a resolution at our February 24, 2021, board meeting, temporarily freezing our rates for our customers. KPUB has some of the most competitive rates in Texas. Our current rate is just 8.5 cents per kWh based on 1,000 kWh usage for our residential consumers—the current state average hovers between 11-12 cents per kWh. 

As a not-for-profit, community-owned utility company, securing competitive and affordable rates for our friends and neighbors is a point of pride at KPUB. We will adjust accordingly by spreading costs long-term. Should there be rate impacts, our customers will be provided advanced notice, and the costs would be spread over time. It is not clear yet what impact the storm will have on the ultimate price of power longer term; however, consistent with our mission, KPUB aims for low-cost energy for our customers, and any rate changes will be transparent. Learn more on this topic here with our latest press release.

However, we do want our customers to be prepared for variations in your bill due to the amount of energy consumed. Keep in mind, heating your home during cold weather can cause higher than normal energy consumption. A typical heat strip heater, like most customers have in the homes, will consume about three times more energy than an AC system would during the summertime.

 

Are KPUB’s rates variable or fixed?

KPUB’s rates are fixed with a variable power cost adjustment factor for just that (the current market purchase price of power for our customers). We try to set the power cost adjustment factor based on 6-12 month projections of costs so that our customers will not see significant changes in the power cost month to month.

As a not-for-profit utility company, we are governed with local control. KPUB is overseen by a five-member board of trustees who are all KPUB customers and are appointed by the Kerrville City Council and serve without compensation. Most of our employees are KPUB customers, and we all pay the same rates as you. Every effort is made to ensure our customers experience stable/non-variable rates.

 

 Why do I see Kilowatt-hour usage (power use) in SmartHub when my electricity was out?

KPUB’s system retrieves information from your meter at regular intervals, and those daily readings can be seen in SmartHub under the My Usage tab. During a power interruption, those readings may not be available, and the system estimates your daily usage, which can produce imprecise results in SmartHub.

The system used to provide daily readings in SmartHub is separate from KPUB’s billing system, and may be different than the actual usage you will see on your bill. The billing system registers only the total actual Kilowatt-hour used at your meter at the end of your billing cycle, which is consistent with actual Kilowatt-hour used at your meter.

 

Why were the rotating outages so long from ERCOT? We heard it would be 15 to 60-minute windows. 

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is responsible for overseeing the Texas’ electric grid for about 90 percent of the state. Their main job is to ensure the safety and reliability of the electric grid. That means when the amount of electricity generated by power plants does not meet electric demand, or customers’ use of electricity, ERCOT directs utility companies to interrupt service to prevent damage to the grid. These are state-grid-mandated service interruptions as designed to prevent an uncontrolled total statewide outage.

In an ideal setting, the rotating outages would have happened in smaller time windows.

However, due to the increased demand for electricity and the unprecedented amount of energy load ERCOT was requiring for utilities to shed to prevent Texas from having a blackout, it takes more outages with longer off times and shorter on times.

Has ERCOT ever done this before?

Prior to this, ERCOT had initiated system-wide rotating outages just three times in the history of ERCOT (Dec. 22, 1989, April 17, 2006, Feb. 2, 2011). None of those were close to the length of this event. The ERCOT rotating outage event that Texas experienced is one that was completely unprecedented.

 

Why was LCRA controlling KPUB’s rotating outages? Why can’t KPUB do this themselves?

When ERCOT issues a statewide mandate for energy load reduction, each utility knows its share, and it’s up to those utilities to determine how to reduce that energy amount and when to rotate. In KPUB’s case, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) manages that load reduction for KPUB and a number of other small utilities like us in Central Texas.

Managing the rotating outages requires a utility to operate a 24/7 dispatch center and as a relatively small utility, KPUB has not been able to justify that expense in the past. As a not-for-profit utility company, these expenses are passed back down to our customers through their rates.

Based on this experience, KPUB will be evaluating the pros/cons/and expenses involved for the possible opening of our own 24/7 dispatch center after this to allow them the control of the timing of the rotating outage events and better communication/information for our customers. In these events, LCRA is dealing with a huge area. KPUB is certain that if we operated the load shedding program locally, we could be more responsive to local issues and make adjustments as needed.

 

Why did other parts of town not lose power?

Rotating outages occurred with entire substations within our community, staggered at different times and different areas to prevent major outages all at once. All substations are subject to emergency events and service interruptions unless they are powering one of our hospitals (Peterson, the VA or the State Hospital); those substations are never interrupted, unless the entire state grid were to lose power.

If someone was a KPUB customer and did not experience a loss of power during this event, they are powered by a hospital substation or subject to other next-level emergency ERCOT events and additional major state-grid events.

 

Why did some people experience shorter rotating outages than I did?

Some KPUB customers experienced longer outages if failures occurred during the substation restoration process or were experiencing weather-related outages for actual crew repairs. This was the case with a few of our substations during the rotating outages event. The number of operational challenges from Monday to Wednesday last week was equivalent to what KPUB might normally see in a year.

Examples of these failures include loss of communications to substations resulting in an inability to turn breakers back on after a rotating outage (these occurred at both the Harper Rd substation and Rim Rock substation throughout the events) and equipment malfunction (there was an LCRA breaker control failure Sidney Baker North at the Stadium substation). These types of failures require LCRA and/or KPUB to dispatch personnel to manually restore power.

KPUB also had a relatively small number of local outages caused by energy overloading and ice that required physical repairs by crews to manually restore power. Restoring these outages was challenging because of the travel, working conditions and rotating outages that were occurring. Some of these areas included Scenic Hills, Scenic Valley, Kerrville Country Estates, Methodist Encampment area, Holdsworth/Town Creek area, Greenwood Forest, Lime Creek Apartments, Heritage Oaks Apartments, Wild Timber, Westminster, Cedar Wood Lane, Center Point area and various smaller ones.

Finally, the energy load shedding program is managed manually by operators in LCRA’s control center—variances in the timing and duration of outages occur as a result.

 

Will I be getting a credit for the time my power is off?

You are only charged for the amount of electricity you use. During the time your service was interrupted, your meter did not register electric usage and you will not be charged for any consumption.

Will KPUB be charging late fees or disconnecting customers?

KPUB suspended disconnects the week before Winter Storm Uri swept across the State of Texas when we saw the storm/weather on the horizon. We will be temporarily suspending disconnects and waiving late fees for at least the next month to help our friends and neighbors impacted by these weather events.

 

I am afraid I will not be able to pay my bill given the cold weather we have had lately. What can KPUB do?

The winter months are when electric utility bills are the highest (for example, when it’s 100 degrees outside and your thermostat is set at 70, that’s a 30-degree temperature gap for energy usage. When it’s 10 degrees outside, that’s a 60-degree temperature gap for energy usage).

We know and understand that many community members and business owners were unable to work/operate last week and have home/appliance repairs as a result of this event.

KPUB will work with our customers on payment plans/extensions for anyone who struggles to pay their electric bills amid this winter storm and state of emergency, just as we have done throughout this pandemic. Click here to learn more about community assistance that’s available for utility bills through our Change for Charity program and other local assistance agencies.

 

Storm Damage Assistance with FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved Kerr County to receive public assistance for infrastructure, but it has not yet approved individual assistance for federal money to be sent straight to residents.

Officials with Kerr County are encouraging locals to report damages to their homes and businesses through a survey to help FEMA make a determination on individual assistance in our area.

All Kerr County residents and business owners who suffered damages to their properties as a result of the storm are asked to report those damages. People can complete the survey online here or by calling 1-844-844-3089.

Learn more with Kerr County’s latest press release here.

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About KPUB

The Kerrville Public Utility Board (KPUB) was acquired by the City of Kerrville in 1987. KPUB serves approximately 23,250 customers throughout its 146 square mile service area, including Kerrville, Center Point, Ingram, Hunt, and surrounding areas in Kerr County. KPUB is overseen by a five-member board of trustees who serve without compensation and who are responsible to the City of Kerrville for the management and control of the system.

KPUB is a responsive and efficient locally-owned provider of reliable, high-quality utility service at the lowest responsible price.