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Another consumer rant

We’re into midsummer now and I’m still trying to judge the full impact of a rate increase from my power company, Xcel Energy. All their assurances that their new “tiered” rate system (the more you use, the higher your rate per kwh) for summer was “budget neutral” didn’t matter. It might be budget neutral for them, but I suspected it wasn’t going to be budget neutral for me. On the contrary, it looked like a decidedly unfair increase for me, and I called to protest. The people who answered the phone should be politicians in Washington, so good is their ability to say much while saying nothing. I also wrote them:

Gentlemen:

I’m very concerned about your new tiered rate system for summer and feel it will impose a disproportionate burden on me and others like me:

  • I’m a retiree, at home all day. Obviously my air conditioning needs will be greater than people who are gone all day at work and can turn the A/C off in their absence.
  • I have allergies, and a closed house with air conditioning is often necessary.
  • I’m on a fixed income, and less able to adapt to higher rates than someone who works.
  • At my age, I’m less adaptable to extremes in temperature than younger people and am less able to choose higher or lower thermostat settings to compensate for higher energy bills.
  • I’ve been trying to do my part by participating in your Windsource program. Dropping it is the one way I can see to help offset a rate hike.

Can you at least provide specifics about the new rates, so that people like me will have some warning about what sort of increases to expect?

Sincerely,

In response, I received an email just as unresponsive as the phone conversation. They did offer me an application for some assistance program, which I’m sure I’m not poor enough to qualify for.

So I canceled the Windsource program. I really hated to do that, because I believe in supporting alternative energy sources when I can, but so be it.

Within three days, Xcel called me to offer me a Saver Switch for my A/C. I told them no. Hell no. My parents had one in Oklahoma one summer. It turned off their A/C for 15 minutes every hour, during which time the house would get several degrees hotter. Fine if your system can recover those degrees in the next 45 minutes, but if it can’t, you lose ground all day and your house gets progressively hotter. Do NOT get suckered into having one of those switches installed on your A/C if you live in a really hot climate or have a barely adequate cooling system.

Within the same three-day window, a different Xcel rep called to offer me a free home energy audit. No, I told them. I don’t want to deal with you and I don’t want to pay any more money for “energy-saving” improvements than I already have. I’m aware that thousands of dollars in additional insulation, attic fans, new windows, etc. might reduce my electricity use, but unless Xcel is going to pay for those improvements, forget it.

That’s about the end of my rant. Bottom line is, Xcel raised its rates and there wasn’t a damn thing the public could do about it. And even though dropping Windsource saved about $30 a month, my bill for June was 30% higher than a year ago. Ouch!

“The new tiered sytem is not a rate hike; it’s just a new way of calculating your bill.”

Yeah, right.

11 Comments »

  1. There must be some mistake. I’m experiencing similar utility rate hikes and yet on TV last week I heard the Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman say that we have no inflation. We both must be doing something terribly wrong for us alone to see what must be only imaginary price increases. On the other hand I’ve heard some people say that since the Treasury doubled the number of dollar bills in circulation, each one will be worth less and will buy less… but that just sounds silly. Although… businesses do charge less for overstocked items. Hmmm… Maybe this Onion News story makes some sense of it all.

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  2. Don’t they have any flat-rate programs there? On Long Island, gas (National Grid) and electric (LIPA) run through the same billing center. They have a program where you can sign up for a flat rate for each, which you pay throughout the year. In the summer, my electric would go up a lot from the AC, and in the winter my gas would go up a lot from the heat. Although my summer gas and my winter electric bills are a little more than what they would be, my summer electric and my winter gas are a LOT lower than what they might be, so over the course of the year, I found that I saved money. Plus, I always know exactly how much I am going to pay, with no nasty surprises if there is a particularly hot or cold week.

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    • Nope. Have never heard of a flat-rate program. They do have a rate averaging plan that sort of levels out your payments through the year, but the overall total will be the same. Fortunately the “tiered” rates only apply to the summer months … for now.

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      • Wow. I think “rate averaging” is how they come up with the flat rate here, because my gas bill actually went down a few months ago, when they averaged in last winter’s usage. I used more heat the winter before, and even though last winter was brutal, nothing will get you to turn down the heat like hot flashes!

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        • I don’t think temps this summer have been all that different from last summer, but I just got my latest bill yesterday. It was $250 for the month, vs. $180 for the same period last year. Think how much worse it would be if I threw in hot flashes!

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  3. That sucks more than I can say. And I suspect that the rest of us, all across the country, at home all day and living on fixed incomes, will face similar problems very soon. Hall, I already have to deal with frequent power dropouts. And I suspect that fluctuations in the line could be behind some of the problems I’ve been having with my cheap PC. 😡

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    • There are times I think my logic must be breaking down, that the system really is fair and I’m just not seeing it. After all, water rates here are tiered the same way to encourage people to use less water, and that hasn’t bothered me. But still I blame Xcel. And worry that I’ve devolved into what I never wanted to be — a grumpy old woman who just complains all the time about everything.

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  4. Samo-samo everywhere, and not a buck to save. Our local government, when I lived in San Diego, told us we had to reduce water usage because of the drought at the time. We did, and did it to the point we reduced it over thirty percent. So what did the local government approve because of it? Water rate hikes, because they were losing revenue over lost water usage. When it come to government and utilities, you’re automatically caught up in a catch 22: damned if you do: damned if you don’t.

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Now that I've had my say ...

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