Colorado Utility Locks 22,000 Customer Thermostats Amid Heat Wave

Colorado Utility Locks 22,000 Customer Thermostats Amid Heat Wave
A man pours water on his face during a hot summer day. (Mahesh Kumar A/AP Photo)
Katie Spence

Record-breaking heat is hitting Western states, and customers looking for a reprieve on Aug. 30 turned to their air conditioners for help.

But more than 22,000 Xcel Energy customers in Colorado were greeted with the message “energy emergency” on their smart thermostats, preventing them from reducing the temperature below 78 degrees.

With tempers and temperatures flaring, Xcel’s customers took to Twitter to vent their frustration, prompting Xcel to remind customers that they agreed to such lockouts in exchange for cash.

AC Goes Bust

Xcel Energy, a major U.S. electric and natural gas company, provides energy to customers throughout Colorado and the United States. If customers want and they have a qualifying smart thermostat, they can enroll in Xcel’s AC Rewards Program.

It’s that reward program that locked customers out of their thermostats.

Specifically, the reward program allows Xcel customers to receive a one-time $100 bill credit upon enrollment and earn $25 every year they participate in the program.

In exchange, Xcel has the right to adjust customers’ thermostats on “the hottest days of summer” to reduce the load on the grid. Additionally, these are known as “Control Events” and allow Xcel to adjust the temperature on the thermostat by a “few degrees,” an Xcel customer service agent told The Epoch Times.

Xcel Energy's Comanche Generating Station, a 1410 megawatt, coal-fired power plant. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post/TNS)
Xcel Energy's Comanche Generating Station, a 1410 megawatt, coal-fired power plant. (Andy Cross/The Denver Post/TNS)

Furthermore, Xcel said these events could happen anytime during the “cooling season.” Still, during these times, customers typically can opt out and control their thermostats as they wish.

However, per the AC rewards agreement, if there’s an “energy emergency,” Xcel has the right to fully lock a customer’s thermostat and not allow a customer to opt out and resume control.

Such was the case on Aug. 30, when a power outage in Pueblo, plus temperatures in the 90s, put a strain on the grid. It was also the first time Xcel took such a step since the program started six years ago.

“We understand the need to keep cool on hot summer days and work hard to provide our customers with the energy they rely on,” Xcel said in a statement to Colorado’s 9NEWS.
“Our customers have a choice to participate in this voluntary program that helps them manage energy demands while receiving cash for their involvement.”

Enroll and Cancel Anytime

According to the Xcel customer service agent who spoke to The Epoch Times, customers can enroll or cancel their involvement with the AC rewards program anytime.

If they do, Xcel won’t adjust their thermostats or lock them during peak strain on the grid. They also won’t receive incentives.

When asked if a customer could cancel the rewards program during an “emergency,” the customer service agent said she believed that was a possibility.

Indeed, pictures of locked thermostats posted on Twitter included a way to contact Xcel and opt out of the energy savings program.
Katie Spence is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times who covers energy, climate, and Colorado politics. She has also covered medical industry censorship and government collusion. Ms. Spence has more than 10 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including The Motley Fool and The Maverick Observer. She can be reached at: [email protected]
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