Duke Energy and Central Electric’s energy customers report unusually high energy bills

“I want answers!” That’s what Dépanneuse Diane Wilson continues to hear from consumers frustrated with their electric bills.

Dozens of complaints have poured in from customers about unusually high electricity bills, some double, triple what they were in December.

Joel Seekins, a resident of Fayetteville, said his Duke Energy bill from December through January more than doubled. He says he contacted Duke Energy.

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“They sat down, it was because of the cold and the Christmas lights. I have a fireplace. It was a balmy December,” he said. “I don’t celebrate Christmas, so no lights. I do laundry once a week with cold water and hang the clothes on the line. The HVAC is off. I have an indoor water heater and it is wrapped in attic insulation and set to 120 degrees I have winterized my house Something is wrong here.

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Seekins isn’t the only one taking the sticker shock when it comes to his electric bill. Sanford owner Kristen Thomas said her Central Electric Membership Corporation bill was typically around $ 200 per month, but the most recent bill rose to $ 395.

“My husband immediately thought, ‘You better not touch the thermostats, don’t leave any lights on,’ and you know, we were like, ‘we’re not touching anything.'” Thomas says she has it. reached out to his power. business.

“The first thing we were told is that we have to have something wrong with our unit,” she said.

She says there is nothing wrong with her HVAC unit and that they keep their thermostat at the same temperature, so it’s hard to understand the higher bill.

This week alone, the troubleshooter received over 100 emails from viewers with similar stories.

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A Sanford homeowner’s bill has jumped over $ 100 month-over-month.

When you compare its usage in January to the hot summer months and compared to last January, it is much higher.

Another Central Electric Membership Corporation customer emailed, “My electric bill has gone from $ 290 to $ 433 and there’s no way it’s possible. This seems to be a problem for most of the people in my area. permanently inground pool, I have rarely had such a high bill. “

A Duke Energy customer emailed: “The lighting bill for a 1,556 square foot home, and the thermostat set to 67/68 with no Christmas lights plugged in 24/7 was 409 $! “

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Central Electric Membership actually has a dedicated section on their website, with answers to why the bills are so high.

A representative says colder weather is the main driver.

“When temperatures drop, it takes more energy to keep the interiors of our homes warm,” the representative said. “The greater the difference between the outdoor temperature and a home’s thermostat setting, the more energy it takes to keep it warm at the desired setting. 96% in heating degree days due to the cooler temperatures of the December through January bills. Heating degree days measure the impact of outdoor temperatures on heating needs and energy consumption. It calculates the difference between the average daily temperature and 65 degrees Fahrenheit, the point which assumes no heating or cooling is required. This allows us to directly compare the impact of weather from month to month. “

Another reason for the rise in Central Electric members’ bills is that the December bill had what is known as a wholesale electricity cost adjustment for all members, as 2020 electricity costs were lower than forecasts.

“Due to favorable wholesale electricity costs in 2020, we were able to repay a credit of $ 0.027 per kWh, or $ 27.00 for every 1,000 kWh used,” said representative James Taylor. “This is important to note because while the WPCA credit has no impact on January bills, the reduced December bills make the dollar difference between December and January bills appear to be much larger. The best way to look at the changes between monthly bills is to compare the increases. or a decrease in energy consumption, which is strongly impacted by weather conditions. “

Regarding Duke Energy, spokesperson Jeff Brooks said, “The culprit at this time of year is usage and we’re going to see that’s the trend for another five to six weeks as we go through. the cold of winter. “

But was January really cold compared to last year? The ABC11 First Alert Weather team analyzed the numbers and said that January was on average 41 degrees, while in January 2020 it was 46.9. Which means this January was almost 6 colder.

When you dive deeper, say our meteorologists in Raleigh, a typical January has eight days above 60 degrees, but in 2021 we only had one. In comparison, we had ten 60+ days in January 2020.

Another culprit for rising bills is the COVID-19 pandemic.

“People are at home all day, every day, so their usage patterns may be different from what they were a year ago at this time and this could potentially contribute to more electricity bills. high, ”said Brooks.

Many Duke Energy customers wondered if they were paying more because power companies failed to disconnect services and set up payment plans for those who couldn’t pay their bills due to financial problems. .

“The funds used to support assistance programs to help customers who are struggling to pay their utility bills come from the Duke Energy Foundation or other voluntary contributions, not from utility or customer tariffs.” Brooks said.

Duke Energy offers what are known as high bill alerts. If you sign up, you will receive alerts when the weather may increase your bill compared to last month.

The alert arrives before your bill so you can take action to reduce your bill.

In addition, if you have a smart meter, you can continue with your daily use.

“They provide daily usage information on their online account so they can actually see hourly and daily usage any day of the week,” Brooks said. “The idea of ​​these two tools is to give you information before your invoices arrive. To allow you to make smart energy choices to save money ”

Here are some tips to reduce your energy consumption:

  • Make sure your HVAC system is cleaned and running efficiently, also adjust your thermostat, the recommended setting is 68 degrees in winter
  • Programmable thermostats are a great tool for controlling energy consumption and allow you to adjust your home’s temperature on a pre-set schedule, lowering the temperature while you’re away from work or school and then saving automatically at a controlled rate for when you get home
  • Consider switching to LED bulbs, they use 75% less energy and last 25 times longer than normal bulbs

If your bill is much more than you can handle, contact the power company immediately. You can ask about budget billing, where they spread the payments over the whole year. Also check out utility assistance programs, there are several available now, that could help you pay your bills.

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