Signing up for a rewards program that lets the utility take control of your thermostat settings, in exchange for credits toward bills, probably sounds like a better idea when the weather is mild. But when temperatures reached into the 90s Tuesday in Denver, and thousands of customers read a message on the device saying it was locked because of an "energy emergency," there was regret, KMGH reports. "I mean, it was 90 out, and it was right during the peak period," Tony Talarico said. "It was hot." Xcel Energy had exercised its prerogative to set the smart thermostats where it wanted to, saying it was necessary because of a power outage in Pueblo, as well as the hot weather and heavy air conditioner usage.
The utility said 22,000 members of the Colorado AC Rewards program could not control their thermostats for hours on Tuesday. Talarico said his was set at 78 or 79. Other customers posted on social media that indoor temperatures reached as high as 88 degrees during the lockout. "Let's remember that this is something that customers choose to be a part of based on the incentives," said Emmett Romine of Xcel. The incentives include a $100 credit for enrolling and another $25 a year. The tradeoff is a loss of control at times to save energy and help make the Xcel system more reliable. The heat can be uncomfortable, Romine conceded, but he said the program is "very, very helpful." (Texas power customers were surprised to see their thermostats turning themselves up.)