Texas’ largest energy companies admit to adjusting some customers’ thermostats

A Fort Worth Star-Telegram report published Friday revealed a tidbit some Texans may be surprised to hear: a number of energy companies in the Lone Star State have the ability to adjust the temperature of customers’ home thermostats in response to power grid conditions.

According to the Star-Telegram’s Dalia Faheid, TXU Energy’s “Demand Response Program” is one such initiative that allows the company to change customers’ thermostat settings “by a few degrees for a short time, normally less than an hour,” a TXU spokesperson told the Star-Telegram.

“While customers agree to this upfront as an important conservation tool, they can typically override the demand response event depending on their unique needs,” the spokesperson added.

TXU told KHOU that tens of thousands of their customers across Texas have opted into the program, though it’s unclear exactly how many people’s thermostats were remote-adjusted during this week’s extreme heat wave.

Houston energy mainstay CenterPoint Energy also remote-controls a portion of its customers’ thermostats, according to a June report from the Verge. CenterPoint’s remote access program, called “Smart Savers Texas,” grants the company access to customers’ thermostats “make brief, limited adjustments… at times of peak electricity demand in the summer,” according to the Smart Savers Texas website. Centerpoint customers can opt out of the program at any time, according to the website.

Despite Texas energy companies’ assurances that their customers’ participation in remote-access programs is voluntary, some customers say they weren’t aware they were signed up without their knowledge.

Last summer, energy customers told KHOU last summer that they only found out about their enrollment in a remote access program when they woke up to warm temperatures at home. TikTok user CactusShark888 posted a video in June of 2021 showing his smart thermostat registering an “Energy Rush Hour” alert that raised temperatures in his apartment to 83 degrees in the name of power conservation. He claimed the thermostat would not revert to user-operated settings for hours after the provider-mandated intervention.

“This is what was on my thermostat: ‘Energy Rush Hour from 3:30 to 5:30,” the TikToker said. “Yet it is 9 pm and I still can’t change my thermostat to set it to ‘Cool.'”

Houston will see a brief respite from triple-digit heat Friday and Saturday before temperatures return to the upper nineties on Sunday. Highs in the Houston area are projected to hit 100 degrees on Wednesday afternoon.

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