Texas New Mexico Power has been fined $1.7 million by the Texas Public Utilities Commission for failing to replace its electric meters prior to the shutdown of the 3G network on which it depended.
The outdated meters were the root of the issues for months. For months, the electric company estimated how much electricity consumers were using because the meters could no longer send meter readings to TNMP.
For thousands of customers in the Texas-New Mexico Power-owned electric infrastructure areas of Alvin, Clear Lake, and Galveston, the practice led to erroneous power bills.
“AT&T advised the TDU (Texas New Mexico Power) on February 21, 2019, that it will cease running its 3G network, effective February 2022,” said the PUC report submitted on March 8, 2023. Although TNMP had been aware for more than 18 months that the AMS system’s mainframe will be shut down in three years, it didn’t apply to the Commission until October 2, 2020, for approval of a new AMS deployment plan that would address the approaching network discontinuance.
Plan was approved by the PUC, it was planned for the implementation of more than 170,000 new meters to start in April 2021 and end in October 2022. However, TNMP claims that the meter vendor informed them in July 2021 that there would be a delay in the delivery of the meters because to supply chain issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas Public Utility Commission Failed to Execute Mitigation Strategy
The PUC study states that TNMP didn’t implement a mitigation strategy until February 2022. Due to this, TNMP was forced to calculate usage on the meters. Since TNMP failed to gather the required resources to do manual meter reads for so many non-communicating meters, estimations for many consumers prolonged for durations longer than three months, as per to the PUC.
According to state regulations, electric providers like TNMP and CenterPoint Energy cannot forecast meter reads for more than three months in a row. TNMP broke that regulation.
Consumers in League City paid thousands of dollars for electricity, like Debbie Walters. Representatives from TNMP declined to speak with her when she asked them to manually read her meter before her bill was due. She was required to pay the incorrect payment and wait to be refunded by her electric utility, GEXA, once they discovered that TNMP provided incorrect meter readings. She did that, but months later, when TNMP actually scanned Walters’ meter, GEXA gave Walters a credit rather than a refund.
The $1.7 million fine must be accepted by TNMP within 20 days, or a hearing can be requested to challenge it. According to the PUC, the administrative fine of $1,747,400 equals to $100 for each impacted consumer.
The PUC reports that TNMP has installed 186,409 new advanced meters so far, with 1.931 meters still needing to be switched out.