After temperatures soared over 90 degrees Fahrenheit, residents were unable to adjust their air conditioning and found locked controls displaying a message that indicated an "energy emergency."
Xcel, which serves millions of electric and natural gas customers in Colorado, Texas, and New Mexico, confirmed to a local news station that 22,000 customers who signed up for the Colorado AC rewards program were locked out of their smart thermostats for hours last week.
"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.
Colorado resident Tony Talarico, who spoke with Denver 7, said while he is normally able to override the emergency message, he was unable to do so on this particular occasion. And the thermostat in his home was locked in at 78 or 79 F.
Xcel customers complained of similar experiences on social media, with some reporting home temperatures to be as high as 88 F.
Customers who enrolled in Xcel's program receive a $100 credit and $25 rebate annually, but Romine said customers also agreed to give up some control to save money and energy and make the system more reliable.
The AC rewards program has over 45,600 customers in Colorado, Minnesota, South Dakota and Wisconsin. In Colorado, the program has 22,190 participants out of 1.5 million Xcel Energy consumers in the area.
While it is a bit uncomfortable for a short period, the program can be very helpful, according to Romine. This is the first time in the program's six-year span that customers were unable to override their smart thermostats. Romine said the "energy emergency" was due to an unexpected outage in Pueblo, combined with hot weather and heavy airconditioner usage.
However, Talarico said that he had no idea he would be locked out of the thermostat when he applied to the program, and while he has solar panels and a smart thermostat to save energy, he did not sign up to have Xcel take as much control.
"To me, an emergency means there is, you know, life, limb or some other danger out there – some massive wildfires. 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," Talarico said.
Completely losing control over the temperatures of their own homes is probably just one of the many issues that Americans will be forced to endure in the future. Smart meters will pave the way for energy rationing.
Americans who have smart meters installed may even find the thermostats remote-controlled by energy companies whenever a dubious "crisis" can be declared.
That may sound bad enough, but with the U.S. aiming for net-zero green energy, "climate lockdowns" may be normalized in the near future. (Related: Energy expert: Texas power outage could have been prevented with significant investment.)
At the height of summer in Spain, authorities have controversially banned air conditioning from dropping below 27 degrees Celsius (80.6 F) in all non-residential buildings, including shops, cinemas and cafes. Violators can face fines of up to 600,000 euros ($599, 136).
Germany, France and Italy are also implementing similar rules.
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