Energy Efficiency Round-Up

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Temperatures have officially hit the 100 degrees Fahrenheit mark across the state, and Texans are responding by cranking up their air conditioning and thus, increasing the demand for electricity. To combat higher electric bills, check out this round up of conservation and energy efficiency resources from several members of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas:

Want more? Visit the Department of Energy’s Energy Saver site.

Consumer Warning: Scammers Seeking Your Personal Information Mimic Electric Companies, Threaten to Cut Electricity During Summer Heat

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Download a copy of this press release

Consumer Warning: Scammers Seeking Your Personal Information Mimic Electric Companies, Threaten to Cut Electricity During Summer Heat

Consumers in doubt should call electric companies directly to verify account status; avoid giving financial or personal information to unsolicited callers or emailers

AUSTIN — In response to a scam affecting consumers cross Texas, members of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas (AECT) are warning consumers of unsolicited calls and emails that threaten to cut off electricity to consumers who don’t share personal information like bank accounts or Social Security numbers.

The scammers do not have the ability to cut electric service, but consumers may be more vulnerable to the possibility of service interruptions during the summer, when the prospect of losing electric service becomes more serious due to the heat.

“Service reliability is vital in the electric industry, and electric companies take their obligations to their customers seriously,” said John Fainter, president and CEO of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas. “We regard any efforts to undermine our reputations as significant threats. Law enforcement officials, electric companies and consumer organizations are diligently investigating these scams, and want to alert customers to stay vigilant this summer and beyond.”

Reminders for consumers:

  • Electricity customers should never provide Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or bank account information to anyone who requests them during unsolicited phone calls, from emails, etc.
  • If you are ever in doubt about a call concerning your electricity account status, especially if the caller threatens to disconnect your service, hang up and call the number on your electric bill to check your account status yourself.
  • Other red flags include a threat that your service may be suddenly terminated when you haven’t previously received any other warnings, or being contacted by a company that doesn’t normally send you electric bills.

“We are asking people to please help spread the word about these scams among their neighbors, friends and families — particularly seniors and those whose English skills may not be strong, since they may be more vulnerable to this illegal activity,” Fainter said. “Small businesses have been frequently targeted as well. Electric companies have been warning their customers about this problem for some time now, but in response to a recent increase in scam activity, we want to remind people to check their account status themselves by calling electric companies directly.”

The Association and its members are working with a number of other consumer and community organizations to alert consumers to the problem, supporting the ongoing efforts of local, state and federal law enforcement officials — such as the Texas Attorney General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation — to end the scam operation.

The Time is Now! Lock in your electricity rate for summer

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Since 2002, the majority of Texans are able to choose the company they purchase their electricity from. This has created competition as dozens of companies, known as retail electric providers (REPs), have formed in order to attract customers. Electricity customers in competitive areas of ERCOT have benefited with the freedom to choose the price and service that best suits their needs.

As temperatures rise during the summer, electric bills tend to do the same. This is due to the large amount of electricity used for air conditioning. The ability to shop around for electricity and secure a fixed electricity price for the duration of the summer provides protection against any price spikes associated with the Texas heat. Although the summer is just a few months a year, the length of an electricity contract can vary between one month and 36 months.

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Consumers should visit Power to Choose, the site operated by the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) to help you sort through the options available in your area. The time is now – lock in your electricity rate!

Before the storm – here’s what you can do to prepare for a hurricane

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Texas ranks high in states prone to major storms, and electric companies have decades of experience with hurricane recovery. Electric companies regularly review and revise their hurricane emergency plans through regular drills and assessment of their assets.

At the same time, these companies have been investing in technology to more quickly and accurately pinpoint problems. These actions help electric companies better prepare for future emergency events.

So what can you do to prepare for an approaching hurricane? Here our some tips from AECT member companies:

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There is the possibility of losing power during a hurricane. As a general guide, for category 1 hurricanes, you should be prepared to be without power for seven to 10 days; for category 3 hurricanes, three to five weeks; and category 5 hurricanes, six to eight weeks. There are other variables that affect damage and restoration like the speed of the storm, rainfall and windshield.

If you do lose power, please know that electric companies all have Emergency Restoration Plans and are committed to restoring all power as quickly, efficiently and safely as possible. A typical restoration plan consists of four phases of restoration:

TypicalRestoration

Again, the timeline for restoration is heavily dependent on the severity of the weather event and the extent of the areas affected. As hurricane season gets closer, be sure to take the time to consider how you will prepare your home for an approaching hurricane and what you will do if your home experiences a power outage.

Hurricane Season is almost here. Are you ready? Your electric provider is.

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Texas is prone to a wide array of extreme weather. Within the past eight months, the state faced ice storms and flooding. Electric companies across Texas maintain emergency preparedness plans for all types of weather, and maintain crisis response teams to quickly act on any emergencies and, if necessary, emergencies in other parts of the state or country. In the case of the more recent ice storms, power plant operators took specific actions in the weeks leading up to the cold front to ensure Texans maintained power amid freezing temperatures.

With winter over and temperatures rising, it is time to turn our attention to hurricane preparedness. Hurricane season runs June 1 through the end of November and according to officials from the National Weather Service, now is the time to begin preparing. Fortunately, electric service providers monitor weather threats 24/7, 365 days a year and remain in a state of readiness.

Researchers at Colorado State University predict a “quiet” 2014 hurricane season, although the official forecast for the season from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will not be available until closer to June. The meteorologists who released this study say El Niño conditions over the Pacific Ocean and cooler water temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are two factors that contribute to their less stormy prediction.

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2013 Tropical Storm Tracks compiled by Colorado State University Researchers

Nonetheless, electric companies all have Emergency Restoration Plans in the event of a hurricane and are committed to restoring all power as quickly and efficiently as possible, with and emphasis on safety for both workers and customers. Each company performs detailed storm drills as well as reviews after actual activations of their emergency plans. Process revisions are made based on lessons learned in order to better prepare for future emergency events.

In the event of a storm, crews are readied to deploy as soon as it is deemed safe and once deployed, the crews conduct damage assessment, which can often take several days depending on the extent of damage. The repair and reconstruction of substations, transmission and distribution lines is followed by the repair to individual services. These companies perform reviews after actual activations of their emergency plans and make revisions based on lessons learned in order to better prepare for future emergency events.

In addition to linemen and local contractors, an emergency plan typically includes many company employees – even those who do not traditionally work in the field. These emergency plans also include “mutual assistance” agreements where electric utility workers from outside of Texas come and help restore power

Finally, electric companies work to keep customers informed on the status of outages and restoration efforts through a variety of channels including company websites, smart phone apps, social media updates and proactive text messages. This type of communication will vary by provider.

At the end of the day, an electric provider’s emergency plan is to safely restore service to its customers – quickly and efficiently. Look for more detail on electric companies’ emergency preparedness programs later this month.

Water & Electricity: A Mutually Beneficial Relationship

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Electricity typically relies on water for its creation, but did you know water relies on electricity in order to make it to its end user?

Yes, electricity is needed when water is first extracted at its source and moved to storage tanks and/or water treatment facilities. Water that ends up at the latter requires electricity for the treatment process. Once complete, electricity is used to transport the treated water to consumers, who determine if more electricity is needed to further treat the water with softeners or filters, or if energy is needed for water heat or cooling. Electricity is then needed to send a consumer’s wastewater back to a water treatment facility. From beginning to end, electricity is necessary to meet the daily water needs of consumers.

At the same time, most electric power plants depend on water for sustained, reliable operation. Most plants heat water until it becomes steam that can spin a turbine to generate electricity. This steam is later condensed, making it possible to recycle the water and make more steam. Additional water is needed to cool the steam during this condensation process.

Power Plants Water

There’s an important distinction here. While power plants usually require a great deal of access to water, very little of that water is actually consumed. The vast majority is returned – normally to a reservoir – to be used for subsequent cooling. Reservoirs created by electric generating companies are used for recreational purposes, including camping, boating, fishing and swimming.

In short, water and electricity are both important parts of Texas’ infrastructure that depend greatly on one another.