PORTLAND, Ore. – Steve and Sabrina Richards got quite the shock when they opened their power bill recently.
The Milwaukie couple owed a whopping $548.61 to PGE – more than five times the cost of their last home heating bill, which was $98.
"I feel like I was cheated a little bit, maybe, you know, that they're wrong,” Steve Richards said. “This can't be it. There's no way that this could be it.”
But his calls to the company confirmed it was no mistake.
Instead he and a number of other customers are facing higher-than-average bills due to what a PGE spokesman called an "unfortunate coincidence."
Not only did a 5.9 percent rate increase take effect on Jan. 1, but record-setting weather events hit the area in December and January, and PGE said they saw customers using a lot more power than normal.
On top of that, meter readers couldn’t get to thousands of homes to do December readings – so the power company estimated the charges for that month based on customers’ usage histories.
If the power company estimated on the low end, and you used lots of power to stay warm during the snow storm, you could see the difference in your most recent bill, which is based on an actual meter reading, PGE officials said.
Steve Richards said he thought he was conserving energy by turning off appliances, keeping the thermostat at 65 degrees and covering cracks where air could get into the home.
“I know my usage probably could have been up a little bit – I mean that’s normal ‘cause it was freezing out,” he said. “But to think that it would be this …”
Now the Richards will try to pay what they can and whittle down the bill as best they can.
PGE said customers should call the company’s billing department if they think there is a discrepancy in their bill.