Energy Bills Heating Up

Summer hasn't officially started yet — but the Houston heat has arrived and that means higher energy bills. That's why Reliant Energy is starting its annual voluntary moratorium on disconnections for people who can't pay their monthly bills. Laurie Johnson reports.

Every year the State of Texas sets certain rules for how energy companies can decide to cut off someone's electricity during the hot summer months. The Public Utility Commission is debating those rules now. But Reliant President Jason Few says his company will voluntarily refrain from cutting off electricity for certain customers.

"We will continue with our voluntary moratorium on disconnecting services for low-income and critical care customers. We will also provide assistance for paying bills for those that need assistance, which helps people better manage some of the burden that goes along with the increased energy usage in the summer."

Low-income customers are those whose household income is not more than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. State Representative Sylvester Turner says those same people could be eligible for an energy discount from the state called the System Benefit Fund.

"Program started as of May, 1st and it goes through the last day of October. It's a five month program every year, it's automatic if you qualify. Take for example, if your electricity bill is $100 you could get anywhere between $10-17 off of your monthly electricity bill in addition to what Reliant and other companies are offering."

Turner says you can call your energy provider or call the Public Utility Commission to apply for the program. In addition to discount and payment assistance programs, the City of Houston will also open cooling centers in high need areas of town where people can go to escape the heat.

For more information, visit www.puc.state.tx.us/ocp/assist/lowincasst.cfm.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...