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WSAZ Investigates | Kentucky Power bill spike

Published: Jan. 28, 2022 at 6:46 PM EST
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PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) - Many people in eastern Kentucky are opening their power bills and feeling sticker shock, as they are seeing increase of up to $100 in just one month.

Erica Carroll is one Kentucky Power customer who was shocked when she read her bill for January.

“We’ve lived here for almost eight years and this is the highest it’s ever been,” said Carroll who lives in Pike County.

While her usage decreased in January, her bill increased nearly $40 from the month before.

“This months bill for January was for $409.39,” said Carroll.

As customers reached out to WSAZ, we started looking into the issue and found the big culprit, the fuel adjustment cost.

This month on Carroll’s bill, it was $92.68. In November, it was $14.84, but in February of 2021, it was just $0.77.

“Your power bill should not be as high as a mortgage payment, or a car payment, or your rent. Its just, you can’t do that,” she said.

According to Kentucky Power, the company recovers dollar-for-dollar the costs of purchasing fuel to power its plants. This is called the fuel adjustment clause (FAC). That cost varies from month to month, meaning customers see a fluctuation in that charge on their bill under the fuel adjustment charge.

“Coal and natural gas prices are our fuel costs that we are referring to in this line item. It does not mean it’s a gasoline price. We are not charging our customers for gasoline for vehicles,” said Cindy Wiseman with Kentucky Power. “We make no profit. It fluctuates sometimes a little wildly because of the market. This is the market that we have no control over on what fuel costs are and purchase power cost.”

For customers like Carroll, she says the roller coaster rate is making it difficult to make ends meet. She says her mother’s bill for January included a $93 fuel adjustment cost.

“It’s going to literally take her entire paycheck to get caught up, and that’s not fair. That’s not fair for people on fixed incomes, because mostly everyone who lives in Pike County a lot of them are on fixed incomes,” said Carroll.

Wiseman says fuel prices have been up, but they are starting to go down, and customers should soon see relief.

“We know that in February that fuel adjustment is going to be much lower than it was in the month prior,” said Wiseman. “Customers should see a significant difference in that line item on their bill in February.”

Wiseman also wants customers to know there is help if they need it.

“I just want to encourage customers to work with us. We know that bills are higher in the winter, that’s always been the case. This year, it’s been a little rougher because of the fuel charges that are passing through but we have options for customers and if they’d reach out to us,” said Wiseman.

WSAZ reached out to the Attorney General’s office. They say they have received several hundred complaints about the increase.

We asked if there any reason to believe the coal companies or natural gas companies Kentucky Power buys from are price gouging, and they referred us to their letter which details how/why the FAC can fluctuate:

As background, the FAC is a separate cost from utility rates because it fluctuates monthly. One month, it may appear as a credit on your account, and the next month it may appear as a charge if the cost fluctuates. This is billed in direct proportion to the amount of electricity consumed and the cost the companies pay for the fuel (coal or natural gas) to generate that amount of electricity. During peak winter months, the FAC cost often rises because the price of natural gas typically rises.

WSAZ also reached out to the Public Service Commission, as Kentucky Power is regulated by them and approve the FAC. We asked them if they would consider capping the fuel charge or requiring those charges to be spread out on bills over time.

We have not heard back, but will keep trying to reach them.

If you need help paying your bill, click here for payment assistance programs through Kentucky Power.

Wiseman also suggests customers enroll in an average monthly payment plan.

The plan spreads the cost of heating and cooling over the entire year, meaning you pay roughly the same amount during the high usages months as you pay during off-peak months.

To enroll, click here.

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