Lubbock Power & Light Admits Lack of Communication About Fuel Cost Increase, Which Leaves Electric Customers with ‘Sticker Shock’
Senior management with Lubbock Power & Light held a news conference Friday morning to quell the public relations backlash from LP&L customers. A number of LP&L electric customers had significant increases in July bills; in some cases doubling or tripling.
The main cause of the electric bill increase was a fuel cost increase which was recently approved. The fuel cost was previously three cents per kilowatt hour and it more than doubled to seven cents per kilowatt hour. Dale Stephens with LP&L said the increase was needed, "What happened before we did the rate increase we weren't able to recover all of (the fuel cost) in the rates. We asked for three rate increases (previously) and hadn't had one in four years. When you do that, you're going to have significant increases."
In addition to the fuel cost increase issue, about 44,000 LP&L electric customers were "under-billed" during part of June. This contributed to an even higher difference in bills from June to July for those customers.
KFYO News asked Dale Stephens what was the shortfall to LP&L due to the underbilling? "It looks like it's somewhere between $2.3 to $3 million," said Stephens. As far trying to recover the funds, Stephens was non-committal, "Well, we're going to talk to the Electric Utility Board. It hadn't even been decided yet, if we'll even attempt to collect that money."
As far as LP&L customers paying their increased bills, some low & fixed-income households have already said it will be a problem. LP&L CEO Gary Zheng said LP&L does offer some help, "We have it available to where people can call us to set up a payment arrangement, unlimited. You can do as many as 12 payments for every month."
Lubbock Mayor Glen Robertson appeared on Lubbock's First News Friday morning and said he wants to see action from LP&L to help their customers. “I had a meeting yesterday…with Gary Zheng and two of his board members, and I told them straight up “You are going to have to call a special call meeting for Monday, you need to take action, you need to give the citizens of this community relief now, buy us some time to figure out what went wrong. And if you don’t, I will.” And I’m serious. If, by Monday, if they have not had a special call meeting, I will call a special City Council meeting and I will ask this council to have the courage to [recant] the rate increase that was just passed a couple of months ago.”