AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Energy customers might be bracing for their energy bill this month.

For the first time in ten years, Austin Energy has increased its base rates to cover the costs of a budget shortfall.

The customer charge has gone up from $10 to $13 a month. Keep in mind, that’s what you’re charged before you even flip on a switch.

Customers will also switch from a five-tier to a four-tier rate structure tied to their energy use. The less you use, the lower your tier and the more you use, the higher your tier.

According to Austin Energy spokesman Matt Mitchell, a typical resident consumes 860 kWh per month.

“A typical user living inside the Austin City Limits will see about an $8 to $9 increase in their monthly bills,” he said.

Austin Energy already upped customers’ monthly bills by an average of $15 a month in November. This pass-through rate increase covers the cost of buying and transporting energy.

“Something needed to change because our revenues were not keeping pace with our expenses,” Mitchell explained.

After nearly a year of heated back and forth about how much customers should pay, Austin City Council approved these new rates.

This base rate review was something environmental activist Paul Robbins played a pivotal part in.

“These rates aren’t nearly as bad as Austin Energy wanted them to be,” he said. “But they’re still really bad.”

As the weather warms up this spring, Robbins has considerable concerns.

“It’s going to hit people the worst this summer because that’s when our highest usage is,” he said.

Yet, the municipally owned utility has stated that it counts on these fees to fund its operations.

“We need to keep pace with growth and make sure we’re adding infrastructure where it needs so that we can safely and reliably supply power,” Mitchell said.

However, Robbins predicts that this could cause even more customers to default on their bills.

“The bigger issue is that this layers onto the unaffordability of Austin as a whole,” he concluded.

Now at $13 a month, Austin Energy’s customer charge will rise to $14 a month in November, then $15 a month in 2025.

Those enrolled in the utility’s Customer Assistance Program are not subject to the customer charge but are impacted by the rate charged for usage.