Thousands of Xcel Energy customers locked out of their thermostats during “energy emergency”

Denver News reports that Xcel Energy locked out 22,000 customers in Colorado from adjusting their thermostats as temperatures rose into the 90s.

Denver 7 reports:

During the dog days of summer, it’s important to keep your home cool. But when thousands of Xcel customers in Colorado tried adjusting their thermostats Tuesday, they learned they had no control over the temperatures in their own homes.

Temperatures climbed into the 90s Tuesday, which is why Tony Talarico tried to crank up the air conditioning in his partner’s Arvada home.

“I mean, it was 90 out, and it was right during the peak period,” Talarico said. “It was hot.”

That’s when he saw a message on the thermostat stating the temperature was locked due to an “energy emergency.”

“Normally, when we see a message like that, we’re able to override it,” Talarico said. “In this case, we weren’t. So, our thermostat was locked in at 78 or 79.”

On social media, dozens of Xcel customers complained of similar experiences — some reporting home temperatures as high as 88 degrees.

Xcel confirmed to Contact Denver7 that 22,000 customers who had signed up for the Colorado AC Rewards program were locked out of their smart thermostats for hours on Tuesday.

“It’s a voluntary program. Let’s remember that this is something that customers choose to be a part of based on the incentives,” said Emmett Romine, vice president of customer solutions and innovation at Xcel.

Customers receive a $100 credit for enrolling in the program and $25 annually, but Romine said customers also agree to give up some control to save energy and money and make the system more reliable.

“So, it helps everybody for people to participate in these programs. It is a bit uncomfortable for a short period of time, but it’s very, very helpful,” said Romine.

This is the first time in the program’s six year span that customers could not override their smart thermostats, Romine said. He said the “energy emergency” was due to an unexpected outage in Pueblo combined with hot weather and heavy air conditioner usage.

But Talarico said he had no idea that he could be locked out of the thermostat. While he has solar panels and a smart thermostat to save energy, he says he did not sign up to have this much control taken away.

“To me, an emergency means there is, you know, life, limb, or, you know, some other danger out there — some, you know, massive wildfires,” Talarico said. “Even if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon situation, it just doesn’t sit right with us to not be able to control our own thermostat in our house.”

Xcel Energy has a similar “AC Rewards” program in Minnesota, which allows the company to control the temperature in your home by using a “smart thermostat” during periods of extreme weather or peak electricity demand.

Given that Xcel has refused to keep Unit 2 at the Sherburne County Generating Station open even though the regional electric grid has a 1,200-megawatt capacity shortfall that could grow to 2,600 MW next year, it’s only a matter of time before Xcel seeks to use these programs in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

We must ask ourselves this vital question: Is this the kind of world Minnesotans want to live in?

This question is incredibly important because wind and solar special interest groups like Fresh Energy advocate for controlling your electricity use all the time using nice sounding words like “energy efficiency” and “demand response.” While the name of these programs may be unassuming, in the real world, they are essentially the opposite of the Motel 6 slogan:

“Demand Response, we’ll turn the lights out on you.”

It is vitally important for all Minnesotans to understand that wind and solar advocates know that their preferred policies will cause electricity shortages because wind and solar are reliably unreliable. These groups are OK with it. In fact, they actually see it as a benefit.

Instead of shutting off the power to Minnesota families and businesses when they need it most, we should build our grid to be capable of providing as much reliable, affordable electricity as we could ever want to use. To do this, Xcel Energy should use their coal plants, which produce some of the lowest-cost electricity in the state, and their nuclear plants for as long as possible.

You can sign our petition to tell Xcel Energy to keep this plant running to help prevent rolling blackouts in Minnesota. #SAVEOURSHERCO