Rochelle Small-Toney: Shedding some light on your utility bill
BY ROCHELLE SMALL-TONEY
Sunday, February 18, 2018
Recently, I learned of comments on social media regarding citizen concerns with high winter utility bills.
I, and the members of the Rocky Mount City Council, hear your concerns. I know many citizens struggle to pay their bills. Receiving an unexpectedly high utility bill makes it even more difficult to meet other financial needs. While I won’t be able to solve the issue today, let me start by shedding some light on the concerns raised, including why your most recent bill may have been higher than normal, tips to help decrease your bill, where our rates stand in comparison to our neighboring electric utilities and the debt.
Most of the comments I read were due to the most recent bill, which included January usage. What drives your utility bill is the weather, usage and the utility rate. January was bitter cold. It was 31 percent colder than the last five Januarys. When temperatures are so low, heating systems must work harder, using more energy to maintain the temperature inside your home. For example, if the thermostat is set to 70 degrees and it’s 20 outside, the heating system must make up a 50-degree difference. The more energy your system uses, the higher the bill. Therefore, the lower your thermostat is set for heating, the smaller the temperature difference and the more energy saved. Set the thermostat to the lowest comfortable setting; 68 degrees is recommended. If you heat your home with natural gas, reducing the setting to 62 degrees at night or when you are away is recommended. If you have an electric heat pump, leave the thermostat set at 68 degrees.
In addition to higher usage causing higher bills, we were also faced with a spike in the wholesale cost of natural gas. This increase in price was so high, we asked the N.C. attorney general to investigate the possibility of price gouging. We are awaiting the results.
You are also encouraged to participate in the city’s Load Management Program. During periods of high demand for power, load management switches are used to reduce the demand and lower the city’s wholesale power costs. The savings are passed along to customers who participate, earning up to $225 per year in credits on their electric bills.
I urge you to sign up for a free energy audit. Our technicians will come to your home to find ways you can save energy. To sign up for an energy audit, call 252-972-1250. Also, through our Energy Share program, customers receive a cash rebate for work related to attic weatherization, replacement of the HVAC system and duct work.
Additionally, the debt referenced is no longer an issue. We sold our share of the electric generation assets that caused the debt and now have competitive electric rates. Our residential electric rate is lower than the neighboring co-op's and on par with Duke and Dominion. For customers who participate in the Load Management Program, the rate is lower than Duke and Dominion.
If you need assistance with your bill, call 252-972-1250 to set up a payment plan. Customer service reps can also use other community resources to help customers with their bills. Additionally, the city has a due date option program in which customers can choose a specific due date for payment, as well as an equal pay program.
For more information on these options and more, visit www.rockymountnc.gov or call 252-972-1250.