I would like to tell you about my dealings with my electric bill over the last several months. It might serve to teach you a valuable lesson about dealing with the electric company. When I got my bill at the end of January, I found it to be extraordinarily high for the amount of usage that I felt was taking place.
That bill was a little bit over $150. As I have told you over the past year, my life has changed substantially. My grandmother lived in this house with me since I bought it in in late 2005. She passed away on August 6 of last year. She moved out at the beginning of June into a Nursing Home where she passed away two months later. I agreed a few years ago to let my grandmother keep the house any temperature that she wanted and agreed to let her use the electricity in any manner that she wanted, because she told me that she was willing to pay the electric bill. She was here all the time, and I work and am gone just like any average person would be from their home.
When we moved into the house. I was talked into having the level payment plan by Duke Energy. In September 2005, when we received our first bill, that level payment with $75 a month. By last year that payment had grown to over $150 per month. I constantly told my grandmother that her usage of electricity was going come back to bite me in my (you know where) and in the end I was right. My grandmother liked to keep the temperature at 75° in the Winter time and that 70° in the Summer. Well, you know what that can do to a power bill. She only paid attention to that level payment cost and didn't look at what the real kilowatt usage was every month and what the payment would be if we were paying a regular bill. There were months in the Winter when our power bill, would've been $200 a month under a regular bill.
When my grandmother moved out, I switched back to the regular payment system, and it reduced my cost drastically. My power bill has gone from being $150 per month to where it is substantially less than $100 per month. In October, the bill was a little bit more than $60, because no heating or air conditioning was used.
I've had to be frugal about how I budget my money over the last several years. I'm not making a killing. Over the winter, I kept one room at 70° and the rest of the house basically went unheated except for my main bathroom. I didn't use my heat pump at all. At the end of January, I noticed that my power bill was a little bit over $150, and I thought this was a little exorbitant for the lifestyle in which I've been leading. Frankly, I was wondering how the power bill could be this high. At the end of February, I received the next power bill, which showed that my bill had dropped to just over $51. Then, at the end of March, I received a bill that showed a little over $11.
When I received the bill at the end of February, I thought that they had misread the meter in January and the bill was balancing out. When I received the bill at the end of March I knew that something was wrong, but I really didn't do anything about it and figured it would all get taken care of. Well it did, but not in a positive way.
At the end of April, a couple of guys who I assumed worked for the power company came by and asked if I had noticed that my meter had stopped. I told him that I had noticed that the power bill had wildly fluctuated over the last few months and I figured something was wrong, but I hadn't looked at my power meter. How many people do look at their power meter on regular basis? That day they changed the power meter.
A week later I checked out my bill on the Internet and it showed over a $400 charge. I immediately called Duke Energy and asked what was up with this. They told me under North Carolina regulations that they can go back to the past year, and extrapolate and estimate your bill for the six-month period prior to the current month of the previous year. This blew my mind. I had never heard of this. Have you ever heard of this?
I explained to the billing representative at Duke Energy my situation and it basically fell on deaf ears, because the regulations in the State of North Carolina allow them to do this and there's basically nothing that you can do about it. I'm not one that cusses out operators or Managers over a telephone, but I did give them an earful. This just does not make any sense. If you remember last year, it was a cold winter. Not only that, but my grandmother was living here and our priority was her comfort. She was 96 years old, and you aren't going to tell some 96-year-old lady that she had to be uncomfortable for the sake of something that I didn't know existed or would come to bear in the future. I told the people with Duke Energy that they were comparing apples to oranges, and they agreed to reduce my bill by 15%, but in the end this is going to take $200 out of my pocket for energy that I never consumed.
I am basically having to pay $200 extra, because their equipment broke. I told the account manager the other day that I was being penalized because their equipment broke. She told me that I wasn't being penalized... that I wouldn't have to make any late payments and if I need to that I can go on a payment plan and yada yada yada; but she completely misses the point. If I have to pay for energy that I didn't consume, then I'm being penalized. There are no two ways about it. And my goal is to stay out of debt as much as possible, not make payments on extorted robbery. And then she pointed out about the regulations and said that Duke Energy had nothing to do with those regulations. They are regulations set up by the Utilities Commission. Duke's lobbyists, I guarantee, are the people who got that regulation passed and implemented; so the people with Duke Energy are fully accountable for this. The Utilities Commission, just like all of the other commissions, represent business interests and not the people.
And I never really thought that I was getting away with anything. I knew that in some way that I was going to have to pay for the energy that had been consumed, when I received that bill in March, but this was totally over the top. I have no choice but to pay the bill, if I want to maintain my credit rating and use electricity in my house. What a wonderful world we live in with all of these monopolies where they have you over a barrel.
I just wanted to convey this issue, so that the people who read this information will know that this can happen to them. Duke Energy's equipment breaks, and you're going to pay for it one way or another, whether you owe it or not. If you notice your meter has broken, then you better get your monies' worth.
I don't know what kind of a good lesson was learned here. I guess to try and figure out a way to get off the electric grid as soon as possible. When something like this happens, you feel like you've been robbed. If I was making a bunch of money, and not having to live as frugally as I have been, I know that this wouldn't bother me as much as it does. But when you're doing everything that you can to survive and you keep getting kicked while you're down, it sure is frustrating.
Peace be with you all and I hope that nothing like this ever happens to any of you.