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Robbins argues for more Austin Energy changes

Friday, June 12, 2015 by Jo Clifton

Consumer advocate and utility watchdog Paul Robbins has had some success bringing change to Austin Energy practices. Currently he is particularly concerned with waste in the utility’s Customer Assistance Program, which is designed to help low-income customers. Last year, he began his quest to remove people from the program who were not actually in need of assistance. His research gave the staff of the utility cover last month when they announced they would be screening out higher-income customers from the CAP program. On Thursday, Robbins told Council during citizens communications that about 40 percent of CAP participants used more than the average residential Austin Energy customer in 2014. That average, according to utility figures, was 915 kwh a month. Some CAP participants used double and triple that amount. In addition, he said, 2 percent of program participants used 2,501 kwh or more per month. Austin Energy could save $700,000 if it did not give the 10 percent CAP discount to customers in the top two tiers, people using 1501 kwh or more per month. If the utility stopped the discount for people in the top three tiers, those using more than the average customer, AE could save $1.5 million, he said. That money could then be used to help the truly needy and shore up the program. The CAP program currently has 42,000 participants. Each of them is paying the CAP surcharge, just like the rest of Austin ratepayers, he said.

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