AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Xcel Energy is now hiring for open meter reading positions due to an increase in estimated meter reads, according to a press release by Xcel Energy.
According to Xcel Energy, an increase in meter reads means some customers will have unexpectedly high bills the next time their actual usage is read.
“Many of our customers have received bills that were beyond what they were expecting and the previous
estimations that were too low have been the primary reason,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy — New Mexico, Texas.
Wes Reeves, spokesman for Xcel Energy Texas and New Mexico said over the last few months their meter reader workforce has been depleted, leading to meters being estimated month after month.
Reeves said they are offering higher pay for the meter reader positions and bringing in extra help to get those meters read.
He also added the pandemic threw a wrench into the workforce where people left or have yet to return.
Reeves said this is not an excuse though for meters going unread.
“And in this case, we didn’t get business taken care of. We’re making up for that and a lot of that and with a lot of other businesses are asking for patience as we work through these labor issues,” said Reeves.
Xcel Energy added it is having difficulty filling certain positions during the pandemic, and keeping employees because workforce opportunities are expanding across the region, which is attracting meter readers to jobs outside the company.
“We want our customers to know we recognize the problems these estimations have caused, and we are taking steps to boost our meter reading workforce so bills reflect customers’ actual usage. We also want to help customers if they are having difficulty paying their bills,” Hudson said.
The shortage of meter readers has led to an increase in the number of estimations, with some customers’ meters being estimated for more than one month. When an accurate reading was taken, many customers were underbilled for previous usage that was higher than estimated, leading to an increase in the bill, according to Xcel.
Current meter readers for Xcel Energy are traveling to other towns to help ensure the routes are read. In addition, the company is working with regulators to improve the reading for estimated usage when the routes cannot be covered due to illness or bad weather, the release said.
“There will always be times when we can’t get to every meter, and it’s usually because of bad weather or
hazards,” Hudson said. “But it’s critical that we improve the accuracy of those estimations and work
harder to ensure a customer’s meter is not being estimated two or more months in a row. We regret and
apologize for the inconvenience this has caused our customers.”
Reeves added that Xcel is also looking at updating the methodology in estimating meters to get more accurate numbers.
“So we need to make sure that we have a better method for being more accurate in those estimations because we will from time to time have to estimate meters for various reasons, whether it’s a blizzard or something that comes along and we can’t get to that meter,” said Reeves.
Reeves added that there might be other reasons your bill is high, such as due to the current heatwaves, but he said if you are seeing a big spike in your bill, it is probably due to meter estimation.
Xcel Energy is asking customers to contact the company to work out payment plans that can stretch the extra billing costs over several months.