Power Cost Adjustment? 'New' charge causes frustration, confusion but providers say it's always been there

·4 min read

Sep. 17—When Cindy Daniel opened her Weatherford Electric bill in August, her total current charges came to $841 — pretty high, but she said she and her husband, Stephen, ran their window units "nonstop" as they save for an efficient HVAC system.

What she didn't understand, though, was a billing line item labeled, Power Cost Adjustment. It was $390 of the total bill.

"That's never been on there," she said. "Yeah, it's higher than the actual bill for the electric."

She also took note the bill looked different from the ones the couple have been receiving from the city-owned power provider. And she's not alone in pondering the new customer charge.

"What about people on fixed incomes?" Daniel asked. "I wonder how they're paying this."

The Daniels, and any Weatherford electric customer puzzled by the new line item on their bills, are casualties of new software in the city's billing department, city spokesman Blake Rexroat and the utility's director said this past week.

"There's no changes at our end," Rexroat said, explaining the city utility has not changed its rates.

The new billing software, he said, is allowing the city to break out the price it pays to its own three providers — the city of Garland, Constellation Energy and Morgan Stanley Energy Partners — as their charges to Weatherford fluctuate.

Customers already were paying the Power Cost Adjustment, they just didn't know it until the new software revealed it.

"That's why the bills changed," Rexroat said. "That (software) allowed us to really do a breakdown, the line you are seeing for that Power Cost Adjustment."

Director of Electric Utilities Joe Farley also said the city has not changed its base rate.

"But the PCA can change monthly," he said. "It's based on what we're paying."

He noted that natural gas, which generates the power, has shot up in price from $3.11 per million BTUs in 2019 — it hit a low of $1.63 in 2020 — to $8.81 last month.

"The price of natural gas really drives the wholesale power supply market here in North Texas," Farley said. "We had new billing software, so the decision was made to break out those components."

Fine, Daniel said, but she needed more.

"They're not telling you how much for a kilowatt hour or nothing," she said. "Where are they getting that dollar amount? You can see how much it costs for a kilowatt hour (on the bill), and in charging you for this line they tell you nothing."

They will, Rexroat said.

"The Power Cost Adjustment was supposed to be listed just like usage was, where it shows the usage multiplied by the rate," he said. "However, that did not make it onto the bill. (That's) mainly because the software is new and it is growing pains as we get it all right on the bills."

Daniel said she'll believe it when she sees it.

Tri-County Electric Cooperative, which supplies power to more than 130,000 meters in 16 North Central Texas counties, has its own version of the PCA. They call it the Power Cost Recovery Factor.

Tri-County spokeswoman Annie Watson said that pass-through also has been embedded in the usage component on customer bills — but not for much longer.

"Our team here has been listening to our members," she said. "In our October bills, we will have line items. And the PCRF will be separate on the bills in October."

As with Weatherford Electric, Tri-County's base rates are unchanged, she added.

"They won't see any new charges," Watson said. "They will just see the charges broken out, so they can better understand it."

And in October, line items on every electric utility's bills will be down, if Mother Nature behaves normally. That should lower the potential for Tri-County's PCRF to draw many phone calls.

Farley said the city's billing department has taken the brunt of his questioning customers' calls. Rexroat added the city's timing was unfortunate, as the billing software was the last of a multi-year software transition that began with its internal financial accounting and human resources programming.

"When we rolled out the new bills, it was June, July — the hottest months of the year," he said. "And we broke it down for transparency. Nothing has changed. The (PCA) charges have been there."