Coronavirus and Your Utility Bills
The Coronavirus (or Covid-19) outbreak news over this weekend has left many working Texas families wondering what’s going to happen in the wake of schools and many businesses closing. Folks want to know how they’ll make ends meet if they take sick leave or must stay home to look after children who aren’t in school. They’re also concerned about how they’ll be able to afford their Texas electricity bill at the end of the month.
Because we here at Texas Electricity Ratings monitor the news about Texas energy prices and regulations, we’re going to stay on top this story to help our customers stay informed and ready.
Covid-19 Energy Service Disconnections
As of March 16, 2020, we have learned that the following retail providers have instituted a late fee and disconnection moratorium for both electricity and natural gas customers facing financial hardship in Texas:
- Atmos Energy has temporarily suspended its natural gas disconnections. Atmos says customers who need help should sign up for financial aid with their payment assistance
- CenterPoint Energy announced it is planning to support customers who may need payment assistance, arrangements or extensions during the Coronavirus situation. The company also has temporarily suspended natural gas service disconnections for nonpayment.
- Constellation Energy (an Exelon Company) has announced in an email they are suspending disconnects and new late fees until May 1, 2020. They are also offering deferred payment plans for customers that are being directly impacted. Customers needing assistance contact customer assistance.
- Reliant Energy announced they will pause payment-related disconnects for residential and small commercial customers. They will provide payment extensions and waive late fees as well as assisting customers through their CARE program.
- TXU Energy also has announced it will waive late fees and extend payment due dates without requiring a down payment. They will also cuts down payments and defer balances over five equal installments. Customers should contact TXU Energy customer service for more information.
Customers should notice that not all Texas retail electricity providers will stop or delay residential shut-offs during the Covid-19 outbreak. Most providers have either said they are watching the situation or they haven’t said anything at all. Because this situation can change daily, customers should contact their electricity supplier to find out what their policy for late payments will be during the Coronavirus crisis.
Covid-19 TDU Update:
The Public Utility Commission of Texas (‘PUCT’) held an emergency Open Meeting on March 16, 2020 to discuss the number of calls about disconnections for nonpayment. The PUCT encourage utilities to address nonpayment issues. In response, CenterPoint-TDU announced that it would suspend disconnections for nonpayment through Friday, March 20, 2020.
CenterPoint-Houston informed REPs that Disconnect for Non-Payment (DNP) transactions previously submitted will be “unexecuted”. CenterPoint-Houston plans on developing a longer term plan for nonpayment as the crisis evolves.
Both Oncor and Texas-New Mexico Power (TNMP) have suspended service disconnects for DNP through Friday, March 19, 2020.
AEP Texas announced it has also suspended disconnections “until further notice”.
We will post further updates about late fee and disconnection moratoriums for Texas customers as we learn more.
Coronavirus Stay Safe in Texas
We want all our customers to stay healthy and safe during this outbreak. To learn more about what you and your family can do, check out the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website. To learn more about the situation in Texas visit the state Health and Human Services site.