Due to the December ice storm and the snow we had in January, meter readers were not able to complete all of their regular routes to read meters. In addition, several days of freezing and below-freezing temperatures in December and January caused electric heaters to work harder than usual. As a result, many customers are experiencing very high bills, and looking to EWEB for answers.
Here is some information that might be helpful to EWEB customers. Customer Service and Communications staff developed these messages for our conversations with customers in the lobby and over the phone, as well as for our social media and traditional media communications. We have also provided a hand-out version of this information in the lobby.
I kept my thermostat set at the same temperature, so why is my bill higher?
When temperatures drop to freezing or below, heating systems have to work much harder, resulting in higher electric usage. Even if you keep your thermostat at 68 degrees all year, you may see your electric bill increase dramatically after just a few days of freezing weather.
The average temperature in Eugene between Dec. 15 and Jan. 31 was 34 degrees. There were more than 20 days during that time period when temperatures plummeted below freezing. According to the National Weather Service in Portland, the 39-degree average temperature in the Eugene area for Dec. 21-Feb. 21 was the coldest since 1984. Many heat pumps turn to backup electric resistance heating in such extreme cold in order to maintain warm temperatures indoors, and these systems can use up to three times as much electricity on the coldest days.
In addition, the increased electric usage during extremely cold weather can move you into a higher energy price category. Current prices are 5.948 cents per kilowatt hour for the first 800 kWh, and 7.435 cents above 800 kWh. We did not increase electric prices in 2017, but the combination of extreme cold temperatures, heating systems having to work harder in general to keep up with the cold, and the possibility of being moved up into the higher usage category could all be reasons for your higher-than-average bill.
If you think your insulation isn’t good enough or your heating system is outdated, remember that EWEB offers free home energy audits, no-cost and low-cost energy-saving tips, rebates and zero-interest loans to help customers upgrade to more energy-efficient equipment. Just visit eweb.org for more information and an online program application.
Why does EWEB sometimes estimate customers’ bills?
Meter readers can’t always complete their scheduled routes due to weather conditions, including the December 2016 ice storm and the heavy snowfall in January 2017, which caused safety issues, made driving difficult and/or created time constraints. Fallen branches and frozen water meter lids may have blocked access to a meter, for example.
Are estimated bills higher than actual bills? If so, why?
Some could be, but in general, estimates tend to be lower than actual usage. The estimates are based on historical usage at the address, so multiple factors would contribute to bills being higher or lower due to an estimated meter reading.
These estimates are calculated by looking at the prior month and the same and prior months last year. For example, estimated usage/consumption for some December 2016 bills was calculated by looking at November 2016, December 2015 and November 2015 actual bills at those addresses.
So, if anything had changed between then and now, and if outside temps were very different this year compared with last year, the estimates will be skewed. As it turns out, electric usage indeed was higher overall this year: average electric usage/consumption in Jan. 2017 was about 371 average megawatts for all EWEB customers. By comparison, in January 2016, our electric load was 323 aMW.
In addition, a customer who may have received an estimated bill this winter may also have received an estimated bill for the same month in the previous year.
How many customers received estimated bills so far this winter?
There were estimated December bills issued to customers on 37 meter reading routes and to customers on 76 routes in January due to ice and snow events in those months. In addition, there were some other meter reading routes that were only partially completed for safety reasons; so, some reads were estimated, but not all. Overall, thousands of customer bills had to be estimated in those two months.
How will EWEB reconcile or “true up” the difference between estimated and actual meter readings on customers’ bills?
Your meter reading is a cumulative, ongoing total of the amount of electricity or water consumed at your residence, similar to how an odometer shows total miles driven in a car. The true-up occurs the next time the meter is read and the customer gets a bill reflecting the latest actual meter reading.
How long will that take?
Most likely just one bill cycle, barring any extreme weather events. The bill cycles that were estimated in January were not the same cycles as the ones that were estimated in December.
Will EWEB notify customers they are receiving estimated bills?
Yes. If your usage/consumption was estimated, you will see the word “estimated” after the meter read on your bill.
Will EWEB work with customers who received higher than normal bills that were estimated?
Yes. Please call EWEB at 541-685-7000 to discuss your situation with a Customer Service representative. We will gladly make arrangements on a case-by-case basis.
We also offer a Budget Billing Program to help balance out the seasonal high and low bills by making the monthly payments more predictable throughout the year. The program allows us to estimate an average payment based on the previous 12 months of actual usage. The open enrollment period begins after you receive your April bill and continues through the end of June.
If you’re struggling to pay your whole utility bill on time, please call us or visit our office. We offer programs to assist customers on a limited income, military households and for those who’ve recently lost their jobs.
Our Customer Care program offers up to $200 to help you pay your bill if you qualify. Help is based on your household income and the size of your household. To apply for the Customer Care program, call the appropriate agency listed below to leave your name and phone number. You will receive a return call when the agency has an appointment available.
Customers 60 years and older may call Campbell Senior Center at 541-682-5354
East Springfield and upriver customers may call Catholic Community Services of Springfield at 541-747-8349
All other customers may call Catholic Community Services of Eugene at 541-345-3642.
Feel free also to direct customers to the new eweb.org Newsroom for information and assistance: http://www.eweb.org/about-us/news.