Local Pacific Power customers irked at what they saw as unfair power bills remain on the hook for payment.
Pacific Power spokesperson Drew Hanson said the company is aware of the complaints and is working with the customers. He said until last Friday, the company’s customer service team had not seen an uptick in calls from the Pendleton area nor an increase on its social media channels.
“That said, our top concern is for our customers,” Hanson said, “and we take any and all questions seriously and welcome feedback about our system and service.”
Amanda Lofting, of Pendleton, saw her bill increase from $122.50 in November to $287 in December. She said that was baffling because she works 12-hour shifts so she is not home half the time.
Pacific Power sent someone to check her meters, she said, and “they came back that they were still reading right, according to them.” A customer service representative also called and listened to her concerns, she said, and set her up an equal payment plan, which dropped her bill to $34.
“That’s a lot better than $300,” she said.
Hanson explained the equal payments plan does not provide a discounted rate but rather levels out payments to make monthly budgeting more predictable.
“Customers enrolled in this plan have a monthly statement based on an average of their last 12 payments, so when the weather is unpredictable, their bill won’t be,” he said. “Equal payment plans are reviewed annually and compare the estimated amount to their actual usage and any difference will be billed or credited based on the option selected during enrollment.”
Lofting also said the company put her in touch with an “energy saver guy” who she talked to again Friday. Lofting said while she must pay their bill, at least Pacific Power is working with her and explaining what is happening.
But Christan Bloom said she is not satisfied with the response she and her husband received from the company. They saw the electricity use at their Adams home jump from 1,894 kilowatts in November to 4,041 kilowatts in December. She said the company sent someone to check their meter and found it running at 100.8 percent, but there was no explanation as to why. She also said the worker spoke with them for only 10 minutes before rushing off to another job in Umatilla.
Bloom said they have to pay the $647 bill and have no answers to what’s happening with their electricity use.
But Hanson said the Pacific Power customer care manager had several conversations with Bloom about energy usage since the initial meter reading Wednesday.
“Based on her concern that the meter was not operating correctly, arrangements were made for the meter reader to return to the site [Friday] to discuss and troubleshoot what could have caused an increase in the usage,” he said.
That visit revealed the trailer and floor boards lacked insulation and the thermostat may have been on air conditioner mode. Hanson said that can trigger the heat pump to frost and subsequently the furnace to kick in to defrost the heat pump.
“An inefficient dance that may be impacting her energy usage,” he said. “It was suggested that an electrician investigate further.”
The meter reader also provided Bloom with his company cellphone number so they can continue to discuss and troubleshoot her energy usage. Hanson said Bloom called Friday afternoon and made an appointment for an electrician to come out. Hanson also said Bloom used equal pay for a short time but cancelled it in April 2018.
“Equal payment is certainly an option should it be something that Ms. Bloom is interested in reenrolling,” he said.
Seth Peterson of Pendleton helped lead the charge two weeks ago to draw attention to what he said was a spike in local power bills, starting with his own. He said his bill jumped to $122 in December, about double his November bill.
Peterson did not immediately respond to a request for an update, but Hanson said Pacific Power on Tuesday conducted a special reading of Peterson’s meter, which confirmed the usage. Peterson’s son stayed with him a part of December, and Hanson said that could be a factor contributing to a higher bill.
He also said winter is typically when energy use climbs, and the Pacific Power offers billing assistance, energy usage tools and energy assistance programs, including the equal pay option. You can find links to those at www.pacificpower.net/index.html or call 1-888-221-7070 for more information.
Pacific Power also teams up with Energy Trust of Oregon to offer energy efficiency consultation and cash incentives to upgrade homes and save energy and money. Visit bewattsmart.com or call the Energy Trust toll free at 1-866-368-7878 to learn more about qualifications and services.