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Xcel may use A/C control programs more

Thousands of Xcel customers locked out of thermostats during 'energy emergency'
Posted at 5:59 PM, Sep 06, 2022

When the Denver metro hit 90 degrees last week, Contact Denver7 received several emails from people upset about Xcel's Colorado AC Rewards program. Customers received a message on their smart thermostats letting them know their temperature was locked due to an energy emergency, and they could not override the lock.

Since Contact Denver7's story aired, we have been doing some digging into this and have been in close contact with Xcel about these concerns.

Shen Lisa Bledsoe's Greeley home hit 80 degrees last Tuesday afternoon, she thought her air conditioner was broken and shelled out $99 for a service call.

"Then they came out, and the guy just turned it right on. "There's nothing wrong with this,"" she said. "I felt so stupid until I saw the story you did. I realized maybe that's what happened."

Bledsoe said she confirmed with Xcel that she is not on the AC Rewards program. However, a decade ago, she signed up for the Saver Switch Program, which "cycled her air conditioner" for several hours on Saturday with no warning.

The story has been heating up on social media, with thousands of shares and perspectives ranging from "Oh good, we're California now," to "You signed up for it." But some Xcel customers said they did not sign up for the AC Rewards program.

"I've never signed up for that program. I've never gotten any rewards. And they still took control of my thermostat," said Thomas Nunley, who saw his thermostat locked last week with no notification. "When I called Xcel, they said they didn't have any supervisors on hand that could talk to me and that they would get back to me. And that never happened. That's been over a week."

Xcel said customers on these load management programs voluntarily sign up to receive incentives. They also need to be aware that Xcel can have some control of their air conditioning. Also, the option may be used more often.

"We've had a lot of hot summer this summer, and we're going to see more opportunities for these programs to be used, I think, as heat continues, so I think I think it's something to keep in mind," said Emmett Romine, Xcel's vice president of customer solutions and innovation. "It's possible we'll see some additional events if the heat continues to rise."

Many customers told Contact Denver7 that is fine if they know in advance.

"You need to be notified by the company. As the consumer, that's only fair," said Bledsoe.

Is Xcel going to be more proactive about notification?

"Yeah, I think that's a terrific point," said Romine. "Anytime we run programs like this, we're looking at opportunities to improve communications because communications is key... we want to make sure people know what's happening, why that's happening and keep them informed."

Editor's note: Denver7 seeks out audience tips and feedback to help people in need, resolve problems and hold the powerful accountable. If you know of a community need our call center could address, or have a story idea for our investigative team to pursue, please email us at contact7@thedenverchannel.com or call (720) 462-7777. Find more Contact Denver7 stories here.