SAN ANTONIO -

A lot of CPS Energy customers are stirred up after learning that the utility often estimates energy usage for customers, instead of reading their meters.

A KSAT 12 Defenders story introduced viewers to Stephanie Fiebrink, a CPS Energy customer living in a two bedroom apartment. Fiebrink was shocked when she got her electric bill.

"This month I got my bill and it was $156," Fiebrink said. Fiebrink said the bill was usually much lower.

Lisa Lewis of CPS Energy said one possibility is that the meter reading was estimated. She said sometimes electric meters are not actually read.

"We do estimate bills at times, Lewis said.

That set off viewers who posted on our website.

  • SA in San Antonio wrote, "What they are doing should be illegal."
  • Linda wrote, "It should be investigated by the law. I live in a one bedroom apartment but got an electric bill for a four bedroom house!!"
  • And Betsy Britton asked, "So, if I estimate what I'll send them, how would that fly?"

On the South Side, 62-year-old Jose Garcia saw the KSAT 12 Defenders story -- and then he saw red. He said he was shocked when he opened up his CPS Energy bill. He said last month. his bill was $88.

"When I opened (the bill) I said, 'Oh my God. ... From $88 to $403? ... That can't be.'"

He went from an $88 December bill to a $403 January bill.

He lives in a 772-square-foot house with standard lights, fans and a big screen TV. He said if an estimated bill is to blame, something needs to change.

"I think they ought to go according to how the weather is," Garcia said.

CPS Energy’s Lewis said Garcia's bill in December was estimated and she is looking into why the bill did not match his usual usage.

She also does not know the percentage of homes with estimated bills every month, but said there is a limit on estimation.

"If we estimated you last month, we will work not to estimate you next month,” Lewis said. “The absolute limit would be if you were estimated two months in a row."

She said more meter readers aren't hired because CPS Energy is moving toward automation.

And Lewis said customers cannot call in their own readings but they can call to complain or even appeal to the CPS Energy board or the city council.

For a list of recent stories Brian Mylar has done, click here.