The extreme cold in February is causing customer usage to be up substantially from normal levels at Benton PUD and utilities across the region. This is resulting in large increases in customer bills as compared to the previous couple of months and prior years.
“If a customer has a question regarding the increase in their bill or needs extra time to pay, we encourage them to call us or contact us through our website,” said Paula Ball, Director of Customer Programs and Services. “We can discuss payment options, such as payment arrangements or the budget payment plan which levelizes monthly payments over the year and avoids spikes with extreme temperatures.”
For December and January, average customer bills were down about 5-15% from what they typically would have been. Temperatures in December were about 5ºF warmer than normal and January was 2ºF warmer than normal.
Temperatures plummeted around February 4 and have remained consistently colder. Average daily temperatures in February were between 10º to 20º F below normal with the trend currently projected to continue through the first week of March.
Because the cold spell has lasted many weeks, the higher usage may affect one or more bills a customer receives. Bills issued in the last week of February are showing average increases in the range of 20-25% or higher over bills issued in January. Bills issued in the next week or two could be even higher if cold trends continue.
Each customer is different and may experience higher or lower increases depending on specific circumstances such as heating source. During cold weather, furnaces work longer which accounts for nearly two-thirds of an average home’s usage. In addition, people tend to be home more in inclement weather, which means more electricity is used for lighting, electronics, appliances and heating water.
We encourage customers to use Benton PUD’s SmartHub® which offers the ability to monitor usage on an hourly, daily or monthly basis and track trends over time.
Customers can also set up usage alerts to be notified when daily usage exceeds established thresholds. These tools will help customers take steps to reduce usage and lower their bills in the future. Benton PUD energy advisors are also available to speak to customers or visit their home to help identify steps to lower bills.
There is some good news. Benton PUD’s advanced meters are read remotely eliminating the need to estimate meter reads when a customer’s meter is inaccessible due to snow.
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