opinion

Seeking real answers about skyrocketing power bills

Posted:  Wednesday, February 14, 2018 - 2:30pm
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My name is Patricia Clark. My husband, Wayne, and I have been customers of Central Maine Power for over three decades, and have had very little to complain about up until this point. 

I’d like to start with a bit of context. During January of 2017, we had a slowly-dying side-by-side fridge/freezer, with a condenser column that overheated so badly at times that it would melt plastic wrap on containers; we had a dishwasher with a power-hungry heating element; outside of the kitchen was the worst of all — a faulty hot water heater that ramped our bills up by at least 50 percent that month alone.

Aside from our appliance issues, we permanently shut off our furnace of 35 years (which needed too much work to keep operational and more than we could afford to do or replace) and ran quartz space heaters (at least 4, each rated 650 watts or higher) to keep the pipes — and ourselves — from freezing at night. CMP reported on our bill that our average daily consumption for that month was 53 KwH. Yikes! It was high, but reasonable, considering our plight. We had a lot to complain about last January, but the power bill was not on the list.

Fast forward to this year, January of 2018.

It’s been two months since we replaced both the fridge and dishwasher (along with the rest of our kitchen appliances), and approximately seven months since we ditched our old hot water heater and sprung for an expensive, but HIGHLY efficient Geothermal hybrid model.

Our fuse box was checked by a licensed electrician prior to the installation so there would be no issues related to wiring, fuse breakers or electrical malfunctions.

This winter, we’ve done a much more thorough job at winterizing the exterior of our home, so we eliminated our space heaters from our primary heating arrangement in favor of our much more efficient Rinnai LP heater, which can easily heat the entire downstairs of our home within an hour and a half.

We’ve reduced our use of the space heaters to one unit, running on a two-hour timer only on the most bitter-cold nights, set to 60 degrees; it runs just long enough for the room to get cozy for me to fall asleep.

I leave the door open at the top of the stairs to allow the pellet stove and Rinnai heater to aid in heating the second floor where we sleep. To dive even further, we’ve replaced all of our everyday incandescent bulbs with LED bulbs, our electric range with a propane stove/oven combo, and lined our problem pipes with pool noodles to ensure they are adequately insulated from the cold.

Here’s the confusing part: Our bill for January of 2018 reported our average daily usage as 89 KwH.

To put that in perspective, the bill we received in December of last year reported an average of 38 KwH. To be clear, this is ONE MONTH PRIOR.

Naturally, I contacted CMP to complain. CMP gave me the runaround, blaming it on the big wind storm; on faulty appliances; on cold weather; on our supplier; even on us for apparently not knowing what we’re running in this house.

Our usage, according to them, went up by 234 percent in one month, without us changing anything.

We went to Facebook, where more than 100 other angry customers shared that they had seen similarly exorbitant increases on their bills.

I called CMP again. They insisted that it must be our consumption, but we requested that a technician come out and check our SMARTmeter. In the meantime, I subscribed to the CMP Energy Alerts text service, and began monitoring our usage on their website’s Energy Manager applet, as well.

Each day, I took photos of our meter to check against their numbers, and each day, was surprised to see a discrepancy that added up to a 90 KwH difference (in their favor) after four days of checking.

On Thursday, January 25, 2018, a CMP technician came to check our SMARTmeter to see if it could be blamed for this sudden spike. It passed the test with flying colors; not a single thing wrong with it.

With us knowing that our usage could not possibly be as high as CMP claims, and knowing that our meter was operating completely within its acceptable parameters… It only leaves us with one thing to investigate: the process between meter-reading and bill-sending — if I were to speculate… This process includes tacking on additional usage where there was none. 

At this point, I feel that it should be noted that if it were only happening to us, we’d be a lot more willing to accept their claims of our higher-usage, but there is too much pointing back to them. How could more than 100 other people complain of higher bills, reporting higher consumption, when they all say that they did nothing differently between December and January?

How could we all be doubling, or even tripling our usage, without changing one thing?

None of this makes sense, and CMP refuses to acknowledge that there have been any problems, and makes public statements claiming that “the majority of people have not complained.”  

We want answers. We want real answers. Not something off a script in an Indiana call center.

We want people to acknowledge that our problem is real, and stop gaslighting us.

We are Mainers. We are not stupid and deserve to only pay for what we legitimately use, not what Avangrid’s corporate greed has manufactured for their benefit and hurt people who have no voice or choice.

 I know for certain that being afraid to turn on a light or make a cup of coffee because your electricity bill might skyrocket is not a way to live. It's definitely not “the way life should be” as the signs welcoming people to our state proclaim. 

 

Patricia Clark lives in Camden