New Braunfels Utilities plans to extend customer energy bill relief efforts it began last month through at least the end of October.
Those measures, which include offering payment and extension plans, suspending residential disconnects for non-payment and waiving late fees, will remain in place through Oct. 31. After that date, the utility’s board of trustees will evaluate the situation monthly.
Customers experiencing hardship and needing help can contact NBU’s customer service department to set up payment arrangements by calling 830-629-8400 Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or email email@example.com.
NBU officials have cited a combination of factors for the higher energy bills this summer, including a prolonged heat wave, spiking natural gas prices, the state’s redesigning of the electricity market to prioritize reliability over price and continuing recovery of costs incurred from the 2021 winter storm.
October NBU bills will reflect the “replenish reserve” amount of 1.3 cents per kilowatt hour in the bill’s Power Cost Recovery Adjustment line item.
This charge is designed to replenish NBU’s reserves to ensure the utility is prepared for emergency events, like the 2021 winter storm that brought ice, snow and subfreezing temperatures to the state, leaving millions of residents without access to electricity and contributing to more than 100 deaths.
As a result of the storm, NBU was exposed to about $93.7 million in power costs that month, compared with NBU’s budgeted expenses of $88.5 million for the entire fiscal year.
Utilities across the state were exposed to prices at the state’s grid operator’s cap of $9,000 per megawatt-hour.
NBU had initiated temporary reductions of 2.1 cents per kilowatt hour in the PCRA portion of the bill for August and September earmarked to replenish those reserves.
NBU has forecast the cost of power for the fourth quarter of this year at 12.41 cents per kilowatt hour plus the monthly electric service availability charge, based on an average of 1,200 kilowatts usage.
The electric service availability charge is the base cost incurred in making service available for customers, including meter reading, billing, and record keeping. The charge is fixed and independent of the amount of electricity used in a particular month.
According to NBU, the August average cost per kilowatt hour for residential customers was 13.8 cents, and the current 12-month average is 12.3 cents per kilowatt hour.
“It is important to note that this quarterly forecast is subject to change should NBU experience extreme weather or energy market events,” said Melissa C. Krause, NBU’s chief strategic communications and security officer.
Necessary updates to the quarterly forecasting can be found at nbutexas.com/rate-breakdown.
“Conservation remains one of the most effective ways to manage utility usage and costs,” Krause said. “The Conservation and Customer Service team is prepared to help customers identify ways to make their homes more energy efficient and will help find ways to reduce water usage.”
The NBU Utility Bill Payment Assistance program, facilitated by the New Braunfels Food Bank, is available for qualifying customers.
Due to the high influx of bill payment assistance applications, NBU staff is helping the New Braunfels Food Bank to process several aspects of the applications, excluding the awarded amount, which remains the sole responsibility of the Food Bank.
To learn about NBU Utility Bill Payment Assistance, visit nbutexas.com/utility-bill-assistance. In addition, NBU is actively working with community agencies to solidify additional bill payment assistance and relief. Once a simplified, unified system is confirmed, those available resources will be posted online at nbutexas.com/utility-bill-assistance.
This week, New Braunfels City Council members approved a plan with the McKenna Foundation to provide up to $500,000 from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation to provide utility bill assistance to residents.
Under the agreement with the city, the McKenna Foundation would disburse funds to nonprofit organizations providing utility assistance through an application process that expands those programs.
The city received about $10.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds from the U.S. Department of Treasury.