Reader: Utility ‘guesstimates’

July 22
July 22, 2008
Medric J. "Spud" Auenson
July 24, 2008

Dear Editor:

I have read and listened to neighbors discuss the recent hikes in electric bills. I thought I was prepared for receiving my bill this month, expecting a surge of at least around 30 percent. I nearly fainted when we received our bill of $756.38.

Over the last six months, the highest bill I have received has been $219.53 and the calculated average for the prior six months is $178.13.

July’s bill is an increase of 325 percent over the six-month average.

I brainstormed all the possible causes: appliances failing in some way, meter reader errors and even wondered if the neighbors were somehow stealing our electricity. There is no way our usage has changed that much. We have done nothing different.

I read our meter and the reading on July 3 seems appropriate, reading 1,051 kilowatts more than what shows on the bill.

But this also confirmed some other things. For instance, over a 16-day period, my household used 1,051 kilowatts but our bill says we used 5,351 kilowatts. Again, we’ve done nothing different. It’s been hotter here so the meter should be on its highest usage given the air conditioning use (which we recently upgraded for energy efficiency).

Here is the part that makes me furious. Obviously, someone has been “estimating” our usage. My guess is it has probably been going on for more than the last six months. Someone finally came and read our meter (after the rate hike), thus playing catch-up and we are now expected to pay for an additional 3,500 kilowatts (about what we probably use in a month-and-a-half. This is in addition to our actual usage and at the increased rates!

This seems bordering criminal to me.

I am bringing this to your attention because I am confident that there must be others who are as shell-shocked as I am after receiving their bills.

Isn’t there a limit to how many months in a row a meter reader can guesstimate? There is no obstruction or reason that any meter reader could not get into our backyard. We have a 14-year-old deaf and blind small dog that stays inside the house, and we care for my mother-in-law who is home all day. Neither would have prohibited a proper meter reading.

I can’t help but wonder how many other customers were low-balled with estimates and then slammed with accurate readings now that rates are up and paying 30 percent more for kilowatts used in prior months.

Tami Lemire

Houma, La.