State regulators will oversee independent tests of the accuracy of controversial digital electric meters.
Power companies say the controversial smart meters help customers control their electricity use. But some of the 900,000 customers who already have the meters say their bills have doubled or tripled since the devices were installed.
"As soon as the smart meter went in, bill went to $540," Dallas resident Ree Wattner said. "It's normally about $200."
Hundreds of people have complained about higher bills in the Killeen-Temple area. Oncor Electric Delivery blamed this season's cold winter weather for the higher bills.
State Sen. Troy Fraser this week urged the Public Utility Commission to put installation of the smart meters on hold while their accuracy can be studied.
Oncor called for the Public Utility Commission to oversee independent testing of the digital meters to increase customer trust in the digital technology.
The commission declined to halt the smart meter program but did decide to order the testing.
"There are no systemic problems with smart meters," PUC spokesman Terry Hadley said. "There are concerns about the public confidence level. To that end, the commission will begin the process of additional testing."
The testing will be done by a third-party, independent company. The PUC said it hopes to have the testing done in the next 30 to 45 days.
The commission heard complaints from customers about the meters at its public meeting Thursday in Austin.
"We changed all the light bulbs in our house to the energy-efficient ones," Dallas resident Tricia Lambert said. "We bought heaters that were energy-efficient. We've done everything in our house to keep the cost down, our kilowattage usage down, and it keeps going up."
She said it was "not logical" that even empty properties are showing 4400-kilowattage usage.
Oncor said it welcomes the testing.
"This is really responding to the feedback that we've gotten so that we can get this confidence and so we can get past the question as to whether or not these are accurate, and we can focus on the real problem of what's causing people's bills to be high," said Chris Schein, of Oncor.
The utility said it is also working on a "demonstration project" that will let customers see exactly what their usage is by the hour.
Oncor plans to install the digital technology in every home in North Texas by the end of 2012.