NES Criticized For Using Outdated Forecast To Cut Power
by Todd Walker
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Hundreds of Nashville Electric Service customers spent the night in the dark and without heat after their power was cut as temperatures sunk well below freezing.
NES policy states the utility won't cut power to anyone who hasn't paid their bill if the forecast high is below freezing. However, the utility only relies on one forecast – the one from the Tennessean from the previous night.
NES cut the power almost 300 people who were behind on their bills, Wednesday, even though other forecasts, including NewsChannel 5's prediction it would barely get to 30 degrees.
Utility officials said they don't use other forecasts when making their decision, or even real-time temperature data, it relies on the forecast printed in the newspaper.
On Wednesday, the forecast in the Tennessean said it would be 32 degrees in Nashville, exactly. To keep the heat on for people having trouble paying their bill, the Tennessean would have had to forecast the temperature to be 31 degrees.
Hendersonville resident Sheila Foster had her power cut. She said it didn't get anywhere close to the paper-predicted temperature at her house.
"I don't believe it ever reached above 26 degrees," she said.
Foster and her whole family spent most of her evening inside a Wendy's. It wasn't for her love of their food, but because it was too "Frosty" to be at home.
She said work has been slow and she fell behind on her power bill.
"I think it stinks," Foster said. "I mean it's not going to be above freezing according to all the news channels until Saturday."
In a statement, NES said it "will not disconnect any customer for non-payment if the Tennessean predicts the high temperature of the day to be below freezing (32 degrees)... Today, approximately 275 customers were disconnected for non-payment."
"I could go home tonight and put on enough blankets and survive, but small children can't and animals can't," Foster said.
NES said about 190 of those customers paid their bill later Wednesday, and within a few hours their power would be turned back on.
Foster said her boss gave her a pay advance to have her power turned back on.