AUSTIN (KXAN) — As Austin Energy works to restore power to the final hundreds of customers still in the dark after last week’s ice storm, all customers are set to see another increase in their bills starting next month.
That’s when the base rate hike will take effect.
City council members passed the move late last year, which will add about $9 to the average user’s electric bill, according to Austin Energy.
That’s on top of the pass-through rate hike, which went into effect in November and added about $15 to the average person’s bill.
Many KXAN viewers have slammed these hikes in the wake of the ice storm.
“About 15 minutes ago our entire neighborhood went dark and we have no idea when Austin Energy is going to restore it. And for this kind of service we’re all getting our rates raised???” one viewer in Lakeway wrote to KXAN last Wednesday.
“They push for rate increases in two categories, raising most people’s monthly bill by nearly $30 and cannot be properly prepared nor respond to the occasional weather incidents. Totally unacceptable,” wrote another Austin viewer on Thursday.
So, we looked into where this extra money will go.
The pass-through rate pays for the cost of energy.
“[It’s a] dollar-for-dollar reimbursement basically, for the power that we buy and sell on the ERCOT wholesale market. So that’s not anything that the utility keeps, we just give that back to the power suppliers that we buy power from,” AE spokesperson Matt Mitchell said.
The upcoming base rate hike will pay for things like employees, equipment and trucks.
“So it’s the cost of… owning and operating Austin Energy,” Mitchell said.
He said next month’s increase will add nearly $30 million to their budget, and will also help pay for recovery from this storm.
“These include things like tree trimming, bucket trucks, labor, poles, transformers, conductor and contractual such as mutual aid,” Mitchell said.
He said part of the money will also be reinvested into infrastructure to minimize the impact of a storm like this in the future.
“Any preventative measures that could be put in place to lessen the impacts of a storm like this in the future will be addressed in the after-action report,” Mitchell said.
Cynthia Allen-Williams said the first increase already hit hard, and the next one is a challenge she doesn’t want to face.
“The increase hurt a lot. Being able to keep the electricity on, as is without a storm is hard,” she said.
Allen-Williams, who lives in Austin, experienced a blackout. Her power is back, but not for many of her neighbors.
“I still have some friends that are they don’t have electricity still. And that was a week ago,” she said.