Ouch! Direct Energy, a retail electric provider popular in Texas, faces a $220,000 penalty for initiating service disconnections during two extreme weather events last year.
Cutting power to consumers during weather emergencies — even if those customers have fallen behind in their bills — is generally prohibited under Public Utility Commission rules.
But according to documents filed at the PUC, Direct Energy initiated disconnections during an extreme weather emergency on Feb. 6, 2014 against 69 customers who apparently fell behind in their bills. It initiated another 183 disconnections during an extreme weather emergency on Feb. 11, 2014, according to documents.
Apparently, only 10 of the initiated disconnections were actually completed. Direct Energy told regulators that the disconnections were the result of administrative errors, and has agreed to pay the $220,000 settlement, according to the PUC documents. The company also said it has increased staffing and retrained existing employees to avoid similar problems in the future.
“Due to an administrative error, Direct Energy sent disconnection requests to the (transmission and distribution provider) during a weather moratorium, resulting in the disconnection of ten customers,” the company said in a prepared statement. “Direct Energy regrets this incident, and has cooperated fully with the Public Utility Commission of Texas during the investigation.”
The company statement appeared on the website of energychoicematters.com, which reports on electricity issues nationwide. The settlement still requires approval by PUC commissioners.
Is a policy analyst for TCAP, a coalition of cities and other political subdivisions that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because high energy costs can impact municipal budgets and the ability to fund essential services, TCAP, as part of its mission, actively promotes affordable energy policies. High energy prices also place a burden on local businesses and home consumers.