KAMC EXCLUSIVE: Are Lubbock Utility Bills Higher than Other Texas Cities?

LUBBOCK, TX - It's no secret Lubbock residents have complaints with utilities here in town, with many asking, “Why is my bill so high?” EverythingLubbock.com took a deeper look at the cost of utilities in Lubbock, and how our rates compare to other Texas cities. 

Both Matt Rose of LP&L and Aubrey Spear with the City of Lubbock Water Department said we are sitting right around the average for Texas. 

"When you look at the cost of electricity, if you are an LP&L customer today, you will see that that cost is positioned right at the state average for electric cost,” Spokesperson for LP&L Matt Rose said. 

"With our water rates we are a little above the average, and with our wastewater rates with the group of cities that we compare ourselves with we are a little below the average."

They said the amount of charges in the bill can be confusing. 

"Here, we have a lot of utilities packaged into one bill rather being individual and separate. Some places just do water,” Spear said. “Here, it's all the city utilities, from solid waste to wastewater to storm water to water to electricity, so the bill itself looks larger, but actually as you break down each one of the components they are smaller.”

According to Texas Municipal League Surveys, compared to over 600 Texas cities, Lubbock's average water bill for 5,000 gallons was $39.80, about 3 dollars above the average of $37.08. Lubbock's average wastewater bill for 5,000 gallons was $31.85, about 3 dollars above average of $28.76. 

Here’s a look at water and wastewater costs for customers across Texas, according to those surveys:

Spear attributes any slightly higher prices to infrastructure costs. 

"We have to transport our water further than a lot of people here in the state of Texas, several hundred miles in some cases, because of our water supply is at distance from the city of Lubbock." Spear said. “It costs money to put in the pipelines and the treatment plants and everything else.”

According to Public Utility Commission data, the average electric portion of the bill in Lubbock is $119.44 dollars, about 7 dollars above the surveyed average of $112.29. 

Here’s a look at average electric prices across Texas: 

Rose said when compared to South Plains Electric Cooperative, LP&L’s customers paid about five to ten dollars higher than the cooperative’s customers. 

LP&L attributes those slightly higher prices in part to infrastructure, as well. 
"It has not been fun what we have had to go through the last couple of years in terms of really playing catch up on funding our infrastructure program."
That program has called for rate hikes each year to pay off millions of dollars of capital improvements, that LP&L calls “necessary.” Rose said it included things like lighting all the new developments in the Milwaukee corridor and replacing a years old line that serviced our hospital district. 

"But anytime you go through the process of stair stepping up your rates, you are going to have customers that see that reflected in your monthly bill and we understand that,” Rose said. 
They hope that a potential move to ERCOT could lower prices for customers. ERCOT provides power to most of the state of Texas. LP&L currently gets our power from the South Plains Power Pool, but has entered the application phase to enter the ERCOT market. 

"When you look at a lot of the folks who are comparable to us who are in the ERCOT market, you'll see that their costs are lower for their customers,” Rose said. “You'll see that the three highest are El Paso, Amarillo, and Lubbock, and it shouldn't be any surprise that those are the three utilities that are not in ERCOT." 

Even if that moveis approved, Rose said it is always a balancing act. 

"As an electric utility, your task is to provide affordable and reliable service, but you can't let one forsake the other." 
It's been said water and light are our most valuable resources, and the city said it's a small price to pay for something we use in our everyday lives. 

"Ask the question of what is the water worth? I think it is worth everything to us,” Spear said. “The willingness to pay for the water is the value of having it here when we need it.”

But some frustrated customers said, they just can't keep up. 

"It's crazy, every month it's something different. It is never consistent, while we are keeping it consistent on our end,” Customer Kylee Bennett said.

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