AUSTIN (KXAN) - It's no surprise that your electric bill goes up every summer. But this year for Austin Energy customers, it's likely to go up even higher.
Starting Saturday, Austin Energy's new summer rate structure takes effect. The rates -- which will be in effect for June, July, August and September -- are slightly higher than rates paid during the eight other months of the year. The new rates were implemented in October.
"Austin Energy and other utilities across warmer regions of the country charge higher summer rates to recover the true additional cost of sizing the electric system and generation to meet the peak demands of summer air conditioning use," the city-owned electric company said in a news release.
Of the total electricity used by the average Austin Energy customers, more than 40 percent or almost half is used during summer months. Austin Energy spokesman Ed Clark defended the timing of the new billing system, saying that air conditioning accounts for more than half of summer electric bills.
"You're better charging the customer for what it really costs in the summertime to put out all this power and to have a system that can deliver it," he said.
More than 80 percent of Austin Energy residential customers' average energy use is 2,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or less during summer months, the utility said. At 2,000 kilowatts, customers can expect an electric bill that's $44 higher than for the same usage last summer under the old rates.
By contrast, 85 percent of customers use 1,000 kWh or less during the eight nonsummer months, which resulted in a $4-per-month-or-less increase due to the new rates.
The new rate system is designed to reward customers who use less power. The rates are organized in a five-tier rate system, with lower rates for lower levels of use.
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