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Frustrated CPS Energy customers criticize utility’s handling of winter energy crisis

Controlled outages, plan to charge customers draw ire

San Antonio – Dozens of irate CPS Energy customers gave the utility’s top brass a piece of their minds during the first CPS Board of Trustees meeting since last week’s controlled outages.

At the peak of the utility’s controlled outages strategy, there were about 372,000 customers without power. Trustees heard the stories behind the statistics during nearly two-and-a-half hours of public comment Monday afternoon.

Though 108 people preregistered to speak, not all of them did, as they were called on one-by-one on the telephone conference meeting.

Those who did speak told the board about their struggles with spoiled food, talking walks outside to warm up from the chill of an unheated home, and being forced to store precious insulin in the snow. Among other complaints, they also criticized the utility’s forced outages that left some people without any power for multiple days.

“The trust is gone, and saying ‘you’re sorry’ is empty,” said one caller. “‘People first’ is not something you should say any longer.”

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Many bucked against the idea of customers shouldering the cost of the event, too - even it were over the long term. Some suggested that bills be waived for the storm period.

The amount CPS pays for fuel is typically rolled into customers’ bills over a 45 to 60-day period. However, given the massive surge in natural gas prices - as much as 16,000% - CEO Paula Gold-Williams has said CPS is considering stretching the cost over 10 years or more rather than letting the cost fall into one bill.

CPS is still working out how much more it spent during the winter event, though, and what it might be able to do to reduce that amount before passing the cost onto the ratepayers.

I do very much understand how customers don’t want to pay anything associated with the storm,” Gold-Williams said during the meeting. “We’re going to do the best we can to bring those prices down, to work with state and local officials so that we can can look for any resource we can to be helpful.”

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Some speakers said CPS should be put under the control of the City Council rather than the appointed trustees - an issue that appeared in the failed “Recall CPS” petition. According to the San Antonio Report, the petition failed to gain enough signatures to get onto the May 1 ballot, and the utility went to court in an attempt to cut the legs out from under it.

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