By Charlotte Lane, chairman
West Virginia Public Service Commission
Few things are more unsettling than opening a utility bill and discovering that it is much higher than you anticipated. Unfortunately, such surprises often occur right after the heating season begins. There is a cold snap, so you turn the thermostat up. The next thing you know, your heating bill is through the roof. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a simple solution to avoid heating season sticker shock. It’s called a budget billing plan
The Public Service Commission strongly recommends that ratepayers take advantage of budget billing programs. They are offered by almost all electric and natural gas utilities in West Virginia, and can help you get your utility budget under control all year round. All it takes is a call to your utility company.
Budget billing plans are based on your average usage and the anticipated energy prices for the coming year. Some utilities offer a set monthly amount and adjust your plan with an annual true-up bill. Other companies make more frequent adjustments, often using a running 12-month average, which allows them to eliminate the true-up month. The specifics vary between companies, but the end result for the consumer is a stable bill amount throughout the year. That means no more surprises. This is more important than ever, considering the challenges brought about by the pandemic.
If you are already struggling with an unusually high bill or a past due amount that needs to be paid, ask about a deferred payment plan. Your utility company will work with you to spread out the past due amount to make it easier to manage payments. They also have programs available that can help you find ways to make your home more energy efficient. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.
If you encounter a problem with your utility company, you can ask for assistance from the Public Service Commission’s Consumer Affairs Technicians. They may be reached at 1-800-642-8544, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Ask your utility about the benefits of a budget billing plan today. You’ll be glad you did when your next heating bill arrives.