SA residents angered by ‘misinformation’ from CPS Energy on power restoration following winter storm

CPS officials said system sending emails on power being restored has been turned off

As Lea Ann Tinney shivered through a Monday without power inside her home in the Government Hill neighborhood, she consulted a CPS Energy power outage map that stated only six customers in her 78208 zip code were affected.

SAN ANTONIO – As Lea Ann Tinney shivered through a Monday without power inside her home in the Government Hill neighborhood, she consulted a CPS Energy power outage map that stated only six customers in her 78208 zip code were affected.

Tinney then walked outside and counted at least five other homes that were without power at that very moment.

“I never really knew what was going on. I’m not an electrician. I can’t go outside and look at the box and see if there’s a problem,” Tinney said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the same power outage map showed that just under 30% of customers in that zip code were impacted by outages, a number that was in all likelihood more accurate than what CPS had previously reported.

Tinney, who said her repeated to calls to CPS during a 36-hour period of mostly going without power went unanswered, added she was also frustrated by receiving notices from CPS that power to her home had been restored, when it had not.

“I think CPS could communicate a little bit better with the citizens,” Tinney said, who described updates she had been given the past two days from CPS as “misinformation.”

During a virtual press briefing Tuesday afternoon, CPS Energy President & CEO Paula Gold-Williams acknowledged issues with the utility’s power restoration email system.

“We have stressed the system greatly and it is not working well. We just recently cut it off because we know it’s irritating,” Gold-Williams said.

Gold-Williams and a utility spokesman defended CPS’s response to the winter storm, pointing out that it was a significant weather event followed by a prolonged period of freezing temperatures.

Still, many customers have criticized the utility’s handling of the storm.

CPS officials this week urged customers to conserve energy in an effort to move off of rolling outages that left some people with just a few minutes of electricity an hour or no power at all.

Residents, however, then pointed out that CPS’s headquarters were among the buildings downtown Monday night that were lit up.

While officials first said during the briefing that some lights were left on for security reasons, Gold-Williams then conceded that the incident was a learning lesson and that the utility would not have the lights on Tuesday night.

“There will be a lot of dialogue. This will be a big learning event. I think we can all learn and do better,” Gold-Williams said.

“CPS Energy is going to continue to analyze its performance, how we did, what else we could do, but there are just natural limitations to the system that normally works extremely well 360 days a year,” Gold-Williams said.

A utility spokesman said Tuesday afternoon that it had advised customers to begin conserving energy usage as early as last Wednesday, ahead of the storm that hit Sunday night.


About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.