The other day, I was approached by Carl, a deacon in my church who knows I work in the energy field. He pulled me aside and showed me the past two electricity bills for the church. My immediate reaction was, “What the…?” I didn’t finish the sentence because I was in church but also because it felt like a cat had my tongue. There wasn’t a whole lot I could say when I read last month’s bill of $7,000. Then, to make matters worse, this month’s was just under $9,000. I was floored.
My church is a decent sized church, but it’s not a mega-church. We’ve only got one service every Sunday and two 1-hour classes during the week, but even those are outside. So how in the world does the church use thousands of dollars-worth of energy in one month?
After much research, I was shocked to learn this wasn’t a mistake. It turns out this very issue is being argued and debated around the state of Texas as we speak.
I soon discovered churches fall under the category of HB 1064 for Public Utility Commission of Texas. In essence, the HB 1064 boosts electricity prices for groups with limited or season demand for energy. Unfortunately, churches, schools, and other non-profit organizations fall under this section. Churches especially qualify for this because meeting once on Sundays increases the amount of energy demand and usage, and thus increases the electric rates.
The PUCT and Oncor are working together to help churches and other similar organizations lower their electricity prices, but unfortunately it will likely be a minimum of another 11 months before anything takes full effect.
This was both discouraging and encouraging at the same time. It was encouraging knowing the church wasn’t using an unusual amount of energy but discouraging because Carl and other church members made it clear they have no idea how to pay for such high bills. It’s also extremely discouraging knowing my electricity bills at home are far less expensive than that at the church. When I walk into church on Sunday mornings now, I’m always extra careful to make sure lights in rooms not being used are turned off and we see to it that we don’t use energy for longer than necessary. Man, summer is going to be brutal.
One idea that has been thrown around lately is the idea of meeting at the pastors’ and elders’ homes on Sunday mornings for the next 11 months since it would save money. Unfortunately though, that’s not the most doable option. Let’s just hope the PUCT gets it right ASAP. Come to think of it, shouldn’t this be a matter of Separation of Church and State?