Controversy Over Power Bills

Submitted by: Matthew Seedorff, mseedorff@k2tv.com, December 29, 2016

Over the past few days, K2TV has become aware of many complaints surrounding power bills within the City of Casper.  On Tuesday, Karlee Vonsavoye posted on Facebook, questioning the authenticity of her bill.  Following, this post, hundreds of people have shared and commented on the page, also expressing concerns over their bills.  In fact, many people on the page, claim their bill increased by more than five hundred percent.  According to Rocky Mountain Power, the bill increases are "directly related to temperature and usage."  If you're concerned over your power bill, we recommend reaching out to the Rocky Mountain Power customer service line, at (888) 221-7070.

Below are a list of questions, and answers, from our interview with Rocky Mountain Power.

Is it possible, the power outage a couple of weeks ago, could have impacted the bills?  It sounds like a majority of people with bill complaints are coming from around the same area in west Casper. Have you noticed a trend or anything like this?
Answer: "Because a customer's meter measures energy consumed, a power outage means that no energy is being delivered, so that would not be a factor here."
  "As our customer service folks have talked to customers, it seems the biggest common factor with the highest bills are those who are using electric resistance heat, either with baseboard heating in all-electric homes, or the use of portable electric heaters. Electric water heaters also factor in, as well as other seasonal devices, such as engine block heaters for certain vehicles."

Some people are saying they live in a trailer, and it just doesn't make sense to have a bill so high?
Answer: "That's true. That is why we keep records not only on customer usage. For example, when a customer doesn't have a years worth of experience at a location, very often we are able to look up the usage history by location on different customer accounts.  We can determine whether that usage is usual for the season, and that location."

Is there a chance that some peoples' bill, could be wrong?
Answer: "There is a chance, but the vast majority of these cases we find that metering is correct, and it is in fact increased usage.  Primarily from space heating, water heating, whether they have one of those small portable heaters. Most that you can buy at the hardware store are fifteen hundred watts. That's pretty large usage."

Can you understand why some people are upset? They feel like they are paying for the entire neighborhood.
Answer: "Yeah, I understand that. It's certainly true that these are large bills, but it's also true that these are not unusual bills for severe winter weather."

Is it possible we missed some sort of rate hike this past year?
Answer: "No. There's an energy cost adjustment mechanism that happens in Wyoming every year. There's been no recent big general rate increase."

Do you have a system, where you drive through a neighborhood and read meters?
Answer: "Most of our meters are automated. They have a radio signal that a service truck can collect the signal and do the meter reading. This has been demonstrated to be very accurate. Still, some of the customers who have called, we have looked at their usage, it was enough to deserve a second look, so we went out to make sure the meter reading was correct. For some customers we are also verifying that the meter is operating correctly."

"As I mentioned before, the company is happy to discuss individual situations with our customers, and help them better understand their electric service and usage. We also have billing options and payment plans that might be helpful in dealing with these situations."