Electric bills have been a hot topic in Fredericktown for awhile, with the previous round of bills being no exception. As new meters were being installed around town, City Light and Water, Fredericktown's utility department, answered a few questions.
Some customers may have noticed a larger bill than they are used to recently. City Light and Water Utility Billing Clerk Ashley Baudendistal said this could be due to multiple reasons, including the heat of the season.
"First thing would be ...when it is warmer out, your air conditioner has to work harder to maintain the same temperature which will cause a household to use more kilowatt hours," Baudendistal said. "Second would be we started changing electric and water meters out the last part of July for the new automatic metering system."
Baudendistal said the new system will allow the city to pull all the meter readings on one day without someone having to come manually read the meter.
"Manually reading all the meters takes about 15 work days, because of this, customers' original read dates range from the 1st through the 20th of the month," she said. "With the old system those customers who got read earlier in the month, their usage ran about a month behind. With having the later read date, it will keep customers usage more current."
Baudendistal said, by changing the read date for those customers who were read earlier in the month, their first bill after their new meter is installed will be a "catch-up" month as it will have extra days in order to get them moved back to the later read date.
"Third would be, the last few months, the city's purchase power cost has been up, so this makes the Purchase Power Adjustment, PPA, rate go up," she said. "This rate is charged per kilowatt hour so because the rate is up and the customers usage is up, they have seen a big increase on the PPA."
Baudendistal took some time to explain PPA.
"The city’s current residential rate is $.0958/kwh, $.0714 of that rate is the city’s budgeted purchase power cost, the remaining $.0244 goes to the electric operations," she said. "The PPA rate is figured by taking the average of the previous three months purchase power cost per kilowatt hour and subtracting the budgeted purchase power cost rate of $.0714, the difference is then that month's PPA rate and is charged per kilowatt hour."
Each individual month's purchase power cost is figured by taking the city's total purchase power cost from MPUA and Ameren (the city only uses Ameren's transmission lines to get the power to town) and divide by the total kilowatt hours sold each month to get a per kilowatt hour rate.
"The purchase power adjustment money helps offset the purchase power cost," Baudendistal said. "PPA was originally designed to keep the city from having to do a large rate increase because the purchase power cost went up, while also being able to pass along any savings we may get as well."
A customer's bill from City Light and Water consists of more than just their electric portion but will also include water, sewer, trash and charges for dusk to dawn lights if they have one, she said.
"If a customer believes there is an error on their bill, we are more than happy to look into it," Baudendistal said. "We usually start with comparing the bill with the same time as the previous year to determine if the increase is consistent with that time of year."
Baudendistal said, if the usage is out of the normal, they start by having the meter reread to determine if there was a misread.
"If the reading is correct we usually ask the customer some questions based on whether it's their electric or water usage that is up to try and help determine what could have possibly caused the increase," she said. "The new meters are automatically read, so this will eliminate the human error aspect."
The new meters will keep hourly usage records which will help to better pinpoint when a customer's usage went up and help to identify if and when a potential problem occurred.
"We usually tell people to be mindful of what their big electric users are. Some of those are your furnace/air conditioner, clothes dryer, hot water heater, dishwasher and oven," Baudendistal said. "These items are big electric users and the older they become, the less energy efficient they will be."
Baudendistal said they recommend trying to set thermostats a couple degrees higher in the summer months and lower in the winter and see if you can be comfortable there. She said adjusting a couple degrees could help save.
"If you can, turn your hot water heater down a few degrees," she said." Also be mindful of how long you are drying your clothes and not over dry them. Then of course, there are always the normal, make sure your shutting lights off and unplug items you are not using."
Baudendistal also said if at all possible, avoid using space heaters in the winter as they are the least energy efficient form of heating.
One thing constantly discussed is the pricing difference between City of Fredericktown and Black River Electric customers. The billing clerk provided the following stats on current residential rates. She said they are slightly different but very similar.
City of Fredericktown residential electric rate
- Service Availability Charge - $15
- Energy Charge - $0.0958/kwh
Black River Electric residential electric rate
- Service Availability Charge - $25
- Energy Charge first 750 kwh - $0.0903/kwh
- Energy Charge excess of 750 kwh - $0.0755/kwh
"If a customer thinks there is an error, they should call the City Light and Water Office at 573-783-2154 so we can investigate it," Baudendistal said. "There are times of the month that are busier than others, so if they have trouble getting a hold of us, they can call city hall at 573-783-3683 and they can transfer them to us or take a message so we can return their call."
Baudendistal said City Light and Water used to have a voicemail service but, due to problems with work orders and lack of enough information, the service was removed.
Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at email@example.com