Victoria Worden of Bel Air called to say she thought her August BGE bill was too high. Late last month BGE meter readers were helping restore power, with the result that BGE couldn't read about 170,000 meters -- including Worden's. Instead BGE sent out estimated bills. In 2010 Worden's August bill was in the $50 range, she says. This year, after BGE estimated it, the August bill was way higher -- $75.50, she says. And the average temperature for this August was a degree cooler than last year, according to BGE.
"$75 is way out of line," Worden says. She's not even sure she ran the AC last month, and she expected the bill to be much lower. Certainly lower than the bill from this July, which was really really hot. Especially since, after Hurricane Irene, she says she didn't have any electricity during part of August for almost 40 hours! But her bills were about the same for both July and August.
UPDATE, 11 a.m.: BGE put out a press release on this this morning, saying: "Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE) today announced that as a result of Hurricane Irene, meter readers were assigned to storm duty and did not read any gas or electric meters from Aug. 30 – Sept. 1. On August 29 and Sept. 2, some, but not all meters were read." BGE is saying 150,000 households were "affected," but the total number of homes with unread meters was 170,000, including those on budget billing. BGE's full press release is below the fold.
If your bill seems too high for August and it's a hassle, do what Worden did and call BGE at 410-685-0123. She says they agreed to bill her zero for August and then put everything on the September bill once they read the meter. (If your estimated bill proves to be too high, BGE is supposed to credit the overbilled amount the next time the meter is read.)
I had a similar experience. My July 2011 bill was $277, and I figured August would be way lower. But it wasn't. BGE estimated that I owe $252 for last month. My average daily kilowatt use in August, according to BGE's estimate, was 25 percent more than it was in August 2010 -- even though, as mentioned, this year's August was cooler than last year's. (I didn't lose power after the hurricane, however.)
I asked BGE for a response to all customers who may believe they were overbilled. (BGE doesn't give me any special treatment, and I didn't ask them to change my bill.) BGE has software that estimates bills when meter readers can't get out, says Jeannette Mills, the utility's senior vice president for customer relations. The estimate is based on actual, metered usage of similar customers, BGE says. Sometimes it overestimates. Sometimes it underestimates, Mills said.
But it doesn't make allowances for when your power goes out. So there are probably other folks out there like Worden, with overestimated bills.
Mills denies that this gives a big boost to BGE's cash flow. "There is no windfall," she said. "There is no significant positive cash flow increase." BGE spokesman Rob Gould says that eliminating estimated bills will be one of the benefits of smart meters, due to be installed starting next year. They'll beam your kilowatt use straight to headquarters every day.
If you're on budget billing, where BGE smooths out seasonal variations to make your invoice more or less the same every month, your bill probably wasn't significantly altered by an unread meter last month, BGE says.
Read BGE's full press release below:
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