Low-income Texans Benefit from Smart Meters, Phones
Individual consumption information helps consumers see how temperature, other factors affect electricity usage, invoices
Unfortunately, the situation isn’t too unusual. Weather and other factors drive up electricity consumption and consumers – particularly those with low incomes – struggle to pay their bills.
According to a recent electricity industry survey, 1 in 8 American households with incomes of $50,000 or less received some type of payment assistance for utility bills in 2014. A larger percentage, 4 in 10, reported having trouble paying electric and heating bills “at least once in a while.”
There is, however, good news. The Pew Research Center reports that about half of Americans in households with incomes lower than $50,000 have smartphones. About half of the respondents in the recent electricity survey said they would be interested in a mobile app that provides information about cash or bill assistance programs, energy efficiency or conservation programs.
“The challenge is how to package information so that people find it useful, easy to use and practical to their daily lives,” said Nat Treadway, managing partner of DEFG, an energy-focused consulting firm that helped conduct the survey.
TXU Energy was one of the first Texas retailers to distill individual consumption information from smart meters in a free tool that customers can access via an Internet-connected computer or mobile devices. Through the TXU Energy MyEnergy DashboardSM and the company’s mobile apps, customers can review estimated current usage, compare past invoices, see how weather affects their consumption and get a projection of their upcoming invoices.