Some Texas Power Companies are Remotely Raising Temperatures on Customers' Thermostats

As temperatures soar in Texas, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is urging residents to conserve power.

But some residents are waking up in a sweat to find their pre-set thermostat temperatures were going up. This was no malfunction, the adjustments were made remotely by their energy company to save power.

Some customers of CPS Energy opted into the WiFi thermostat Rewards program that provided a one-time $85 bill credit upon enrollment and a $30 annual bill credit at the end of summer with the use of a qualified WiFi-enabled thermostat, according to USA Today.

The program allows the company to adjust their customers' thermostats remotely "as needed" during peak energy usage times, according to the CPS Energy website.

"During summer peak energy demand days, we may briefly adjust your thermostat settings by a few degrees. We'll do this only as needed," the website said.

The fine print of the website noted that these "conservation events," will likely happen during the summer between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"During conservation events you can opt-out at any time through your thermostat or smartphone app and return to your normal settings," the website said. "Conservation events don't occur often, but are crucial in managing the energy needs of our community."

Houston-area resident Brandon English told KHOU 11 that his wife and infant daughter "woke up sweating" from an afternoon nap after their thermostat temperature was increased.

He was concerned his daughter might have overheated.

"She's 3 months old," he said. "They dehydrate very quickly."

The family then found out their new smart thermostat was part of the Smart Savers Texas program from EnergyHub.

The program from EnergyHub, a software technology company that works with utility companies and their customers to stabilize the power grid, allows customers to "help save energy and reduce stress on the electric grid in [their] electricity service area."

In exchange for allowing EnergyHub to remotely access their thermostat to make "brief, limited adjustment" to temperature settings at times of "peak electrical demand in the summer," customers can see a reduction in their electricity bill and will be entered into a cash sweepstakes, according to the website.

"Thermostat owners typically receive an offer to participate from their manufacturer or service provider within their mobile app or via email," Erika Diamond, the Vice President of Customer Solutions for EnergyHub told Newsweek. "During a demand response event, Smart Savers Texas increases the temperature on participating thermostats by up to four degrees to reduce energy consumption and relieve stress on the grid."

Diamond added that "every participant actively agrees to the terms of the program and can opt-out of a demand response event at any time."

English said his family unenrolled in the program as soon as they could.

"I wouldn't want anybody else controlling my things for me," he said. "If somebody else can manipulate this, I'm not for it."

Some of EnergyHub's clients include CenterPoint Energy, ERCOT and TXU Energy.

In a statement to NBC affiliate KPRC, CenterPoint Energy said it has agreements with third-party companies "who aggregate residential customers for purposes of curtailing energy use."

"These companies, [such as EnergyHub and their Smart Savers Texas Program] , enroll residential customers who agree to participate in curtailment events designed to reduce load peak demand," the statement said.

"When CenterPoint Energy, or another utility, initiates a curtailment event based on high temperatures or high demand, EnergyHub then starts the energy curtailment through the customers it has enrolled in its program."

Texas Power
Transmission towers are shown on June 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which controls approximately 90 percent of the power in Texas, has requested Texas residents to conserve power through Friday as temperatures surge in the state. Some Teas residents have discovered the opted into a program that allows their power company to raise the temperature of their thermostats remotely. Brandon Bell//Getty Images

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