By Hailey Persinger
Killeen Daily Herald
Central Texas residents will have a chance tonight to dispute electric providers' statements that cold weather is to blame for high heating bills.
Many residents showed up at a Killeen City Council meeting two weeks ago in hopes of voicing their frustration with bills they said have doubled and tripled in the past two months.
Because that meeting was not meant as an open forum, the council set a 6 p.m. public hearing tonight at the Utilities Collection building, where residents can speak directly to representatives of their respective electric companies.
Since the initial council meeting, representatives of Oncor, the area's electric delivery provider that installed a series of digital Advanced Meters in homes across the region, and legislative representatives have released statements regarding what they believe is the culprit for the doubling and sometimes tripling of heating bills.
Oncor representatives conducted a series of meetings with the public last week about the Advanced Meters. State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, attended one of two public meetings about finding the lowest electrical prices. State Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, released a statement Sunday regarding his own conversations with the Public Utilities Commission.
The consensus among these parties is that cold snaps in December and January – not an electric company's rates or Oncor's Advanced Meters – are responsible for the increase in costs.
"With the coldest winter in 30 years, we are seeing an increase in the amount of energy used to heat our homes and businesses," Sheffield said in a news release. "Many of our bills have spiked due to the colder-than-usual climate for Central Texas."
Bryan Lightfoot, general manager and CEO of Bartlett Electric Cooperative, also said consumers should take temperatures into account before blaming electric companies.
He said that though Bartlett did not partner with Oncor to install the new meters, the company is receiving complaints about higher-than-normal bills.
"We had a four-to-five-day period where it was extremely cold and that's where you can see the pattern," he said. "Weather predictions are that it's going to get pretty cold again this year. I hope that it's not as painful for the members out there on the next bill cycle … it looks like February's going to be pretty chilly as well."
For residents who believe that the cold is not the culprit, the city of Killeen will host representatives from a variety of electric service providers at 6 p.m. tonight in the Utility Collections building at 210 W. Avenue C following a 4 p.m. City Council workshop.
Contact Hailey Persinger at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.