In controversy over fees, some power companies reward turning lights off

Dallas Morning New - Biz Beat Blog 

By James Osborne, Published July 17th, 2015 2:13 PM

You go to the trouble to set your air conditioner to turn down when you’re at work. You never leave a room with the lights on. Then at the end of the month your electricity bill is actually higher than it was before?

Called minimum use fees, home power plans often include surcharges for customers who use less electricity than an average household. These fees came under criticism in the Texas Legislature this year for hindering conservation efforts and targeting low-income households.

Now some retailers are taking notice, not just offering plans without the surcharge but actually paying customers a bonus if they use electricity below a prescribed level.

Infinite Energy, the Houston-based electric retailer, began marketing what it’s calling a conservation plan earlier this month that credits a customer $9.95 if they use less than 1,000 kWh in a month. The average Texas household uses more than 1,100 kWh each month, one of the highest rates in the nation, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“We’ve gotten some feedback from customers. Most of them expressed a concern with minimum use fees. They say, ‘I’ve been trying to reduce my usage, and I’m being penalized for it,’” said Steve Madden, COO at Infinite.

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