WACO, TX — The Public Utility Commission lifted the ban, Friday morning, that restricted electricity providers from shutting off power for households and businesses that were late on payments.
The disconnect moratorium was in effect due to the state of emergency and financial impact of February's Winter Storm Uri.
The meeting with PUC Chairman Peter Lake and commissioner Will McAdams opened up for general public comment; speakers were limited to three minutes each.
Steve Crawford, Director of Operations at Huggins Honda, expressed his concern over electricity bills that are now four times the amount they would normally pay.
"We have actively sought communications with the energy provider regarding lines of communication, regarding terms, and/or negotiating this rate," said Crawford. "We're asking for the moratorium for disconnects be extended while we work through this. Furthermore, we would appreciate any type of avenues and/or abilities from this commission that would engage our provider in negotiating these terms."
Commissioner McAdams said ultimately this event is going to cause the commission to refine the left and right limits of both consumer expectations and the operations of market participants.
"I believe that the emergency provisions, the emergency orders, need to be lifted," said McAdams. "In my view the emergency has passed and we need a catalyst in the market to break this log jam, to get people contacting the reps."
As far as what consumers can do to stay afloat, McAdams suggests calling representatives to ask for deferred payment plans. Electric providers are required under rules to offer deferred payments for up to five billing cycles, according to McAdams.
"This is a delicate balance between financial impact on consumers and households, and the economic health of electric providers in our competitive marketplace," said Chairman Lake. "It's a tough challenge to find that balance. We need to encourage every consumer that's facing this kind of challenge to contact our Customer Protection Division, that's available on our website."
The disconnect moratorium will not be in effect for seven days, and once the moratorium has lifted any retail electric provider who plans on implementing a disconnect needs to send an updated disconnect notice to their customers.
This is in addition to the ten days of disconnection notice that are required to be given by the consumer's electric provider.
The PUC recommends getting in touch with retail providers if a consumer is behind on payments, to ask for deferred payment plan, and to call the PUC if they push back.