Michigan residents voiced their concerns about recent increases in their utility bills. Many have seen their electric bills double or even triple this month. They testified in front of the House Energy Committee in Lansing.
Louisa Westendorp of Berry County, was one of them. She and her husband, Doug, own MOO-ville dairy in Nashville. They said their bills doubled this month.
“Last month [ it was ] $2,116, this month was $5,864”, says Louisa. She and several others say they're not getting answers from Consumers Energy. "So, the concern is, what do we do with the bill."
The utility company defended themselves.
"We've done our research and we've done our homework and the data has made it apparent that there are a few reasons why our customers are experiencing higher bills as of late -- the first is the cold weather”, says Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, Vice President of Customer Experience for Consumers Energy. She says in a typical December there would be three days where the weather is below 10 degrees.
This year there were eight days. Youngdahl says the other reason is the company tried to schedule around the holidays so people didn't get a bill. But that extended the billing cycle, meant people were getting billed for 35 days instead of the typical 30.
Residents, however, are blaming smart meters.
"We're very confident with the accuracy of our smart meters, we feel confident in that being a tool that will really increase the flexibility for our customers," said Amy Walt, Consumer Energy Executive Director Customer Operations.
Consumers says it is willing to come out and test meters for accuracy.
"We understand concerns, that's why we offer tests, said Amy Walt, Consumer Energy Executive Director of Customer Operation. "We'd be glad to review accounts individually. Every person's situation is different."
As for the Westendorps, they were told their bill was higher because of the extra five days on their bill. They have a hard time believing that it would cause the amount to double.
After the hearing, one member of the house committee said he appreciates Consumers Energy testifying, but added that too many questions remain unanswered. He says he will continue to delve into the increased electric bills to determine if they are brought on by smart meter malfunctions or some other issue.
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