In recent news, a handful of energy companies including TXU Energy, CenterPoint Energy, and Xcel Energy, have come under public scrutiny due to their programs allowing the remote control of thermostats during periods of peak electricity demand.
Aiming to ease grid stress and manage soaring energy demands, these companies have implemented programs that allow them to remotely adjust the thermostat settings of customers who have opted into their respective schemes. Usually, these adjustments are minor, altering the temperature by a few degrees for a short period. While such programs offer sweepstakes entries and annual rebates as incentives, the practice has raised numerous eyebrows.
Amid the summer heatwave, numerous customers reported waking up to unusually warm temperatures due to remote adjustments to their thermostats. This happened under the banner of the “Demand Response Program” and “Smart Savers Texas” in Texas, and the “AC Rewards program” in Colorado. These adjustments typically occur on weekdays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., but in some instances, this window extended for system testing or emergency conditions.
Such measures have drawn criticism from a segment of customers who were not aware they had enrolled in such programs. For instance, one Texas resident reported waking from a nap in a house heated up to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. His concerns were echoed by other residents across the region.
“Was my daughter at the point of overheating?” queried Brandon English, a Deer Park, Texas resident, whose 3-month-old was at potential risk due to the remote adjustment. English went on to unenroll his thermostat, voicing his discomfort at an external entity controlling his appliances.
These responses highlight a salient issue – many customers felt they lacked the knowledge and transparency necessary to make an informed choice about their participation in these programs. While companies maintain that customers voluntarily opt in, there are clear indications that better communication is required to ensure customer satisfaction.
Amid these concerns, it is crucial to understand the motivations behind these energy-saving strategies. According to Erika Diamond, EnergyHub’s vice president of customer solutions, the ability to reduce energy consumption is key to managing the grid, both in Texas and nationwide. EnergyHub partners with power companies for the Smart Savers Texas program, which enables the remote adjustments.
But according to Jason Thomas, Co-Founder and Partner at Vault Energy Solutions, LLC, when electricity providers call for conservation, it’s not just for grid stability, it’s also about cost-saving.
“The electric company loses money when they have to pay surge pricing and resell it to consumers at the lower fixed rate on their contract,” Thomas explained. These energy conservation measures therefore serve dual purposes: maintaining grid stability and reducing the financial burden on energy companies.
Despite the controversy, energy companies continue to emphasize the voluntary nature of these programs, and customers do retain the ability to opt-out. Still, these events underscore the need for improved customer awareness, clearer communication, and transparency about the implications of enrolling in energy conservation programs. As the industry continues to evolve with smart technology, striking a balance between customer comfort, grid stability, and cost efficiency is a challenge that will likely persist.
About Vault Energy: Vault Energy is a leading Texas energy broker, committed to helping customers navigate the complex world of energy consumption and conservation. With a focus on transparency and customer satisfaction, Vault Energy aims to provide comprehensive information and solutions to energy-related challenges.