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Electricity Options

Smart Metering

Smart Meters or Advanced Metering System (AMS):

Every residence or business has an on-site electric meter that registers the amount of energy consumed. These meters must be read monthly by meter readers who come to your home or place of business and record the usage displayed on the face of the unit. This usage represents the total kilowatt hours (kWh), or electrical units, that were consumed for the previous month (billing cycle).

Metering technology has evolved substantially over the years, and the current mechanical meters are beginning to be replaced by more efficient Smart Meters. These new meters have digital communications capabilities. Initially, these meters will process and confirm energy consumption directly through your Transmission and Distribution Utility (TDU). When fully implemented, this state-of-the-art technology will help provide all consumers with many features.

Features of Smart Meters:

  • Your meter will be read without a meter reader having to come to your home.
  • Your meter can be re-read much faster, should you have questions.
  • The new meters will record electricity use in 15-minute intervals instead of once a month like the old meters, providing customers more choice and control over their electric usage and expenses.
  • Smart Meters will provide instant power outage notice to your TDU and support more reliable and efficient electric delivery to your home.
  • Since in-person meter readings will not be required, the number of vehicles on the road will be reduced, thus reducing pollution, traffic, and fuel consumption.
  • Eventually, you will have access to detailed readings of your electricity use and corresponding price.
  • As meters are installed and enabled, the time needed to process service orders, such as starting or stopping service, will be reduced.
  • In the future, the meters will be able to communicate with programmable devices (like your air conditioner or dishwasher) through a Home Area Network (HAN) module to monitor and control electricity consumption.
  • You will have more choice and control over your electric usage and bill.
  • Additional features will be developed as technology advances.

Smart Meter Costs

In 2005, the Texas Legislature directed the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to authorize electric delivery companies to assess a surcharge to recover the costs of Smart Meters. This surcharge will be shared among all electricity users receiving a new meter and will be added to customers' bills.

When will I get my Smart Meter?

Smart Meter distribution has already begun in some communities. Most companies are planning to distribute the meters in phases. Check with your TDU, municipality, or co-op to find out about their Smart Meter plans, costs, and distribution dates.

Smart Meter Safety

Smart meters communicate energy consumption data to your electric utility provider through brief low-level radio frequency (RF) transmission signals that occur for one to two seconds. People are exposed daily to low levels of RF energy, including natural RFs from both the earth and the human body and man-made RFs from common electronic devices.

These everyday devices typically cause significantly greater exposure for longer periods of time than smart meters, including cordless phone base stations and microwave ovens, which are usually positioned closer to the user. Additionally, RF exposure drops rapidly with distance.

In order to prevent serious health impact from exposure to RFs, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), with the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other health and safety agencies, has set limits on power densities from electronic devices.

The smart meter, which is installed on the exterior of a house, emits an RF signal that is at least ten times below the FCC standard and is considered safe for everyday exposure.

To learn more about radio frequency technology and safety, visit the FCC website at: www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/radio-frequency-safety.

Smart Meter Safety Fact Sheet

Submetering

Submetering

Many Texans living in apartments, condominiums, mobile home parks, and other multiple unit complexes have their electric power meters read by the complex or park management rather than by the electric company. This arrangement is known as submetering. Some other apartment residents don't have a separate meter for their unit but pay their share of the complex's total power bill based on the size of their apartment or condo. This is known as central system or nonsubmetered master metering. Customers with either metering arrangement should know their rights and the landlord's responsibilities.

Rental Agreement Requirements

The rental agreement for every central system or nonsubmetered master metered residence must include information on central system or nonsubmetered master metering and a copy of the Public Utility Commission rules Section 25.141 that cover central system or nonsubmetered master metering. The lease must also clearly state that the tenant is responsible for the cost of electricity serving their unit and all heated and/or air conditioned common areas, such as laundry rooms, community centers, and workout facilities.

Electric Rates

Submetered bills are calculated by dividing the net total charges for electric consumption, plus applicable tax, by the total number of kilowatt-hours to obtain an average cost per kilowatt-hour. The average kilowatt-hour cost shall then be multiplied by each tenant's kilowatt-hour consumption to obtain the charge to the tenant.

Electric Bills

Electric bills for submetered customers should be sent out monthly, unless service is rendered for less than that period. The bill must use the same billing unit (usually kilowatt hours) as used by the electric provider in its bill to the complex. The bill must include the payment due date, which shall not be less than seven days after issuance, the meter reading, the rate per kilowatt hour and the total amount due for that billing period. Charges for submetered electricity must be billed separately from a tenant's bill for rent or any other charges.

If a tenant's payment is late, the landlord may charge a one-time late payment penalty of no more than 5% of the amount due. If a tenant fails to make their payment, the property manager may disconnect the electric service to that unit only after giving the tenant written notice at least five days prior to the disconnection. The written notice must have the words !termination notice! or similar language prominently displayed on the notice. Once disconnected, the property owner may charge the tenant a reconnection fee not to exceed $10 only if the tenant has previously agreed in their written lease. It is a violation for a tenant's electric service to be disconnected for non-payment of rent.

If a submetered bill is found to have over or under charged a tenant, the landlord must calculate an adjustment. If a tenant is due a refund, the adjustment must be made for the entire period of the overcharges. If the complex underbills a tenant, the property owner may back bill the tenant for the amount of the underbilling for up to six months, unless the owner can provide records that justify back billing for a longer period. If the underbilling is $25 or more, the apartment owner must let the tenant pay off the underbilled amount over a period of time equal to the period during which the utility charges were underbilled.

The property manager must keep records of the complex's electric bills, calculation of average cost of electricity, submetering reports, and submeter tests for the current month plus the previous 12 months. Tenants have the right to inspect any of these reports during normal business hours or at a time mutually arranged between the tenant and the property manager.

RV and Mobile Home Parks

Owners of RV and mobile home parks may bill their tenants for electric service using either the Public Utility Commission's rules Section 25.141 or Utilities Code 184.033.

RV and mobile home park tenants may be charged a fixed rate for electricity based on the average cost per kilowatt hour for the park over the past year. The park owner may not make a profit on the sale of electricity to park residents or include charges for the cost of electricity for the park's common areas. If the power company supplying electricity to the park increases its rates after the park calculates its fixed rate, the park's owner may recalculate the previous year's average charges using the new rate and calculate a new fixed rate to be charged to residents.

Disputes

In the event of a dispute between the tenant and the owner regarding any bill, the tenant can file a complaint with the owner. The owner has 30 days from the date of dispute notification to investigate and report the results to the tenant. If the tenant is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, the owner shall inform the tenant of the Public Utility Commission of Texas complaint process, giving the tenant the address and telephone number of the commission's Customer Protection Division.

Submetering Fact Sheet

Master Metering

Central System or Nonsubmetered Master Metering

Many Texans living in apartments, condominiums, mobile home parks, and other multiple unit complexes have their electric power meters read by the complex or park management rather than by the electric company. This arrangement is known as submetering. Some other apartment residents don't have a separate meter for their unit but pay their share of the complex's total power bill based on the size of their apartment or condo. This is known as central system or nonsubmetered master metering. Customers with either metering arrangement should know their rights and the landlord's responsibilities.

Rental Agreement Requirements

The rental agreement for every central system or nonsubmetered master metered residence must include information on central system or nonsubmetered master metering and a copy of the Public Utility Commission rules Section 25.141 that cover central system or nonsubmetered master metering. The lease must also clearly state that the tenant is responsible for the cost of electricity serving their unit and all heated and/or air conditioned common areas, such as laundry rooms, community centers, and workout facilities.

Electric Rates

Central system or non-submetered master metering utility bills are based on either the total square footage living area of the dwelling unit as a percentage of the total square footage living area of all dwelling units of the apartment house and all heated and/or air conditioned common areas or as the usage of the dwelling unit as a percentage of the sum of the individually metered or submetered usage of all dwelling units. If the percentage of area method is used, the percentage must be stated in each tenant's rental agreement.

Electric Bills

Electric bills for central system or nonsubmetered master metering customers should be sent out monthly, unless service is rendered for less than that period. The bill must use the same billing unit (usually kilowatt hours) as used by the electric provider in its bill to the complex. The bill must include the payment due date, the meter reading, the rate per kilowatt hour and the total amount due for that billing period. Charges for central system or nonsubmetered master metering electricity must be billed separately from a tenant's bill for rent or any other charges. If a tenant's rental agreement requires them to pay a portion of the electricity costs for common areas, these costs must be billed separately and not included in the central system or nonsubmetered master metering electric bill.

If a tenant's payment is late, the landlord may charge a one-time late payment penalty of no more than 5% of the amount due. If a tenant fails to make their payment, the property manager may disconnect the electric service to that unit only after giving the tenant written notice five days prior to the disconnection. The written notice must have the words “termination notice” or similar language prominently displayed on the notice. Once disconnected, the property owner may charge the tenant a reconnection fee of up to $10. It is a violation for a tenant's electric service to be disconnected for non-payment of rent.

If a central system or nonsubmetered master metering bill is found to have over or under charged a tenant, the landlord must calculate an adjustment. If a tenant is due a refund, the adjustment must be made for the entire period of the overcharges. If the complex underbills a tenant, the property owner may back bill the tenant for the amount of the underbilling for up to six months, unless the owner can provide records that justify back billing for a longer period. If the underbilling is $25 or more, the apartment owner must let the tenant pay off the underbilled amount over a period of time equal to the period during which the utility charges were underbilled.

The property manager must keep records of the complex's electric bills, calculation of average cost of electricity, submetering reports, and submeter tests for the current month plus the previous 12 months. Tenants have the right to inspect any of these reports during normal business hours or at a time mutually arranged between the tenant and the property manager.

Disputes

In the event of a dispute between the tenant and the owner regarding any bill, the tenant can file a complaint with the owner. The owner has 30 days from the date of dispute notification to investigate and report the results to the tenant. If the tenant is dissatisfied with the results of the investigation, the owner shall inform the tenant of the Public Utility Commission of Texas complaint process, giving the tenant the address and telephone number of the commission's Customer Protection Division.

Central System or Nonsubmetered Master Metering Fact Sheet