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Hike in KU bills leave locals concerned

Kentucky Utilities customers across much of Kentucky and into Virginia recently received unusually high power bills, some within the last month, part of a new hike in rates planned to take place since early December.

Though customers said they’ve used very little electricity by using wood-burning stoves and kerosene heaters, or even that they were gone for a week or more during the timeframe the bill encompasses, many of their bills have gone up significantly.

An increase was approved by the Public Service Commission, however, locals are concerned their bills may show a larger increase than the rate established and published in the Enterprise classifieds on Dec. 2, 2020, several of them noting their bills have gone up by $100 or more, even doubling in some instances.

According to KU, basic service for residential customers was to increase from .53 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) to .61 cents. This means that the average residential monthly bill would increase by $12.85 or 10.67 percent.

Other proposed rate adjustments included:

  • Meter test charge from $75 to $79;
  • Disconnect/reconnect without remote service switch from $28 to $37. There will be no charge to disconnect/reconnect with a remote service switch;
  • Rates for one-time and monthly solar share program rider remain the same at $799 and $5.55 respectively.

Although the legal reported monthly residential bills would only increase by a little over $12, locals across Harlan County have reported bill increases of $100 or more as they shared experiences and even pictures of their bills for comparison.

Marsha Griffey said her bill went up by almost $100 though she uses a tankless water heater, propane heat and has new insulation in her home, making her question why such a large increase could happen in just one month.

“Mine was $74 for this month. Next month’s bill, due in February, is $290,” said Katina Coots. “I seriously don’t understand why because I use a propane fireplace for heat. So disgusted.”

Beth Abner, another local, said she recently purchased a new heat pump because people recommended it to her as a way to help lower her as it is energy efficient compared to her old one.

“My bill has went up the past two months from $140 to $260, now this month is $340,” she said. “It’s puzzling because my heat is set on 69 degrees at all times. It’s frustrating. People don’t have that kind of money during all this going on.”

Others, like Whitney Warren, said they paid their electric bills in advance because they haven’t changed much from month-to-month.

“I paid my electric bill six months in advance. I realized they were charging me 170-ish the whole time,” she said.

When her bill went up drastically, Warren said she made a complaint and had her meter reread.

“They told me it was right, but the very next two months it went down to $120. I assume they took advantage.”

Like many residents, the Enterprise office also saw a sizable increase, going from $71 to $331.

Paul Thompson, LG&E and KU President and CEO, said the decision to request a rate adjustment during a difficult economic period was “carefully considered and even delayed two months to help allow more economic recovery.”

“However, for us to continue to provide the service on which our customers rely, we are at a point where we must ask the Kentucky Public Service Commission to review our rates based on the increasing costs to serve our customers,” said in a news release about the rate adjustments before they were approved by PSC.

“In addition to having more economic recovery occur before new rates would go into effect mid-2021, we hope to temper the initial increase in customer bills by also requesting approval of a $53 million ‘Economic Relief Surcredit’ that would help to mitigate the impact of the rate adjustment until mid-2022. Additionally, pending the outcome of this proceeding, it’s our goal not to request another base rate adjustment for several years,” he said.

According to KU, despite rising costs for cybersecurity and outside labor, and the investments in the utilities’ systems, LG&E and KU will continue to deliver rates that are among the lowest in the nation.

The utilities are ranked in the top quartile of peer companies for holding down costs. As a result, LG&E and KU have maintained residential rates well below the national average. LG&E’s rates are 17 percent lower than the national average, while KU’s rates are 22 percent below the national average.

As locals continue to struggle with the economic impact brought about by COVID-19, Harlan Countians said they are shocked about the increase that was effective Jan. 1, but are worried about another 15 percent increase said to be looming later in the year.

To file a complaint about your bill, call 800-722-4636 or 502-564-3940 to begin an investigation into your case. You can also email psc.consumer.inquiry@ky.gov.

The Enterprise will continue to bring updates about KU’s rate increases, and how they impact the community.