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WSAZ Investigates | Increased power bills following winter storms

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Thousands of people across our region were without power for days and others for weeks following major winter weather in February. Viewers have been reaching out to WSAZ with questions regarding their power bills, not sure why charges were increasing, despite being without the service.

Stacy McCallister was without power for six days after the second storm hit.

“We called this ground zero on each side because it hit so hard up Route 10,” McCallister said.

She and her family spent hundreds of dollars on a generator, gas, propane and battery-powered lights just to get by. She says she expected to lose some food in her fridge during the extended outage, but she didn’t expect to see her power bill nearly double.

“There was never a power bill ever, $399 since I moved here in 2018,” McCallister said.

She said things just aren’t adding up.

“On my bills itself, it actually shows that it was estimated while my power was off,” she said. “How are you charging me for an estimated bill when I had no power for days?”

We sat down with AEP to try and understand the numbers.

They tell WSAZ that some customers are utilizing new AMI digital meters, which automatically notify the company of an outage. Others, who still utilize traditional manually-read meters, many of those bills had to be estimated since some roads were impassable and inaccessible.

“So somebody might go ‘Wait a minute I was out of power for two weeks and I’m still getting this bill,’ said AEP spokesman Phil Moye. “If we had to estimate the bill in early February or March, then that’s going to work itself out.”

The other major caveat is the timing. Storms hit mid-February, but many customers didn’t receive their bill until early March.

A spokesperson for AEP says December, January and February (typically the coldest months of the year) are billed at the “winter rate” to help with seasonal bill spikes.

Those months are billed at a “discounted” rate -- meaning customers who got their bill in early March are paying more than those who got theirs in late February.

“People who would’ve gotten the same bill late in February, say 27th, would’ve gotten that winter rate say for the same amount of time,” Moye said.

Bills will also typically be higher for those who use a heat pump, baseboard or electric furnace to heat their home.

Here’s a comparison that shows the difference the winter rate makes for the same usage:

The higher the usage the bigger difference in the rate. The earlier in the month the March bill came, the more February usage is reflected in the bill.

1,000 kWh

147.96 (March regular rate)

147.96 (Dec. Jan. Feb. winter rate)

Same cost, winter rate or regular rate (lower rate kicks in at 1,350 kWh)

2,000 kWh

276.25 (March regular rate)

255.94 (Dec. Jan. Feb. winter rate)

20.31 or 7.9% higher with regular rate

3,000 kWh

276.25 (March regular rate)

255.94 (Dec. Jan. Feb. winter rate)

51.55 or 14.6% higher with regular rate

4,000 kWh

532.84 (March regular rate)

450.05 (Dec. Jan. Feb. winter rate)

82.79 or 18.4% higher with regular rate

You can see the difference for your particular usage with a bill calculation spreadsheet available on AppalachianPower.com:

APCO – WV Bill Calculation Spreadsheet

  • · On the Customer Load Information tab be sure to enter the city (some areas add as much as 6 percent in taxes)
  • · Enter the billing month (02 for February or 03 for March) and year (2021)
  • · Enter kWh used in the “Metered Energy” “kWh” space
  • Then go to the RS (Residential Service) tab to see your bill amount.

The number for AEP Customer Service is 1 (800) 672-2231.

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