‘No one to speak to’: CPS Energy customers frustrated, concerned for vulnerable community members amid rotating outages

Energy system stressed across Texas, CPS Energy CEO says

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio CPS Energy customers say they’re worried about the elderly and sick neighbors who are without power during the ongoing rotating outages happening across the state.

Carlos Correa has been routinely checking in on his 90-year-old neighbors since they have been without power since 2 a.m. Monday morning due to ongoing rotating outages. He says his calls to CPS Energy for answers about when the power would be restored have gone unanswered.

“We’ve called everybody. CPS Energy has no one to speak to, no one to give us any type of information as to even when our electricity is going to come back on,” Correa told KSAT on Monday evening. “As much as we pay into our electric usage every single month, (they’re) just so unprepared with anybody, with any type of customer service or any type of emergency command center to give us some sort of answer as to when we’re going to be getting some sort of electricity back.”

CPS Energy: Most customers subject to rotating outages as winter weather continues

CPS Energy says the energy demand has been up to four times higher than expected. Some systems have been impacted by the high demand and others by equipment failure due to the cold temperatures.

CPS Energy CEO Paula Gold-Williams said every energy system is stressed across the state.

“We are absolutely sorry that this is occurring. It is an unprecedented weather event that we actually had thought that the cold weather was behind us,” Gold-Williams said.

Rudy Garza, with CPS Energy, says CPS Energy is reaching out to its customers via all social media platforms, calls, and emails. The utility company says it is also contacting the elderly and sick who are on their list.

“In some cases, we have done automated calls to customers in this group, letting them know that if they find themselves in a medical emergency where they are, maybe their home gets too cold or their oxygen tank runs out or something happens, dial 911 and seek medical attention,” Garza said.

While temperatures will continue to affect the energy consumption, CPS Energy expects the outages to continue, so the company urges customers to make plans.

Correa urges others to check in on their neighbors as well.

Late Monday night, Gold-Williams issued the following statement:

“We hope to see improvements overnight, but we are facing unprecedented challenges. Our focus tonight is to restore the consistency of the grid. Conservation is important, and we ask our community to continue to do all they can to limit electric and natural gas energy use. We understand that this is a big ask of our customers and sincerely apologize for the problems that this is causing them.  Our customers are our neighbors, families and friends, and we are doing everything we can to make sure we work to make things better for everyone.”

“Rotating outages began across the state around 1:30 a.m. on Monday morning. Utility system operators are making real-time decisions with real-time information coming from ERCOT, and these decisions are made in a nondiscriminatory manner. While increasingly difficult to accommodate, utilities work to preserve power for critical functions (i.e., hospitals, governmental entities, etc.) to limit the impact on those facilities. It is through this outage management process, executed over the same timeframe in major cities across the state, that the grid can and must be re-stabilized.

“Please know that all participants in the ERCOT grid are taking the same measures. The extreme weather has driven record-breaking energy use across the state. With energy reductions driven by outage management, CPS Energy used more than 4,954 MW yesterday, which was a winter record. If the outages had not been proactively managed thus far, winter energy demand would have exceeded summer maximums for the first time in CPS Energy’s history.

To assist with keeping residents off the road and safe, CPS Energy’s walk-in centers will be closed on Tuesday, February 16, 2021. Additionally, Braunig and Calaveras parks and lakes are closed until further notice.”

The utility company offered the following tips for customers to keep warm and conserve power:

  • Stay warm by dressing in layers of loose-fitting clothing instead of a single heavy layer.
  • Wear a hat, even indoors. Keeping your head warm helps keep your body warm.
  • Wear gloves or mittens to keep hands warm, and wear a scarf to keep your neck warm.
  • Use towels to block drafts around doors and windows.
  • Use extreme care when using gasoline-powered generators. Do not operate a generator inside your home or other inhabited building. Only operate generators outdoors, and be sure the exhaust is facing away from your home.
  • Do not use camping stoves or outdoor grills indoors, not even in your garage. These can cause carbon monoxide to build up in your home and can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Conserve power on your mobile phone in case of emergency. Some battery-saving tips include:
    • Turn down the screen light
    • Turn off Bluetooth
    • Close all unused applications
    • If possible, use text to communicate instead of making a call
    • If you have multiple mobile phones in the household, keep one phone on for emergency updates and turn the others off to preserve battery life.
  • Unplug sensitive equipment during a power outage, including televisions, computers, and other electronics which helps protect against any voltage irregularities that may occur as power is restored.
  • If you have medication that requires refrigeration, please check with your pharmacist for instructions on storage during an extended power outage.
  • If you have a garage door opener, review the instructions for manually opening the garage door.
  • Be extra cautious when outdoors in snowy conditions. Downed power lines can be hidden by snow, trees, or other debris. Always assume a downed power line is live. If you see a downed power line, stay away and call us immediately at 210-353-4357 (HELP).

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About the Authors

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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