Asst. to Editor
Now that the City of Altus has raised utility rates to catch up with current costs and to help generate City revenues, the talk in the community often includes those increased rates. Some customers are in total surprise that utility bills may be based on estimates or averages.
“The City of Altus just started estimating in July 2012 due to staff reduction” Utility Manager Janice Berryhill said. “The only way we would estimate before July 2012 was if a meter was dead or a meter was inaccessible. At this point, if your meter was estimated this month, it will be read the next month as usual.”
In other areas, the practice of using estimates is commonplace. According to “www.highelectricbill.com”, companies that average usually base the amount consumed on the same month from the previous year. So if the meter reader was unable to read the meter for November, they’d use the November usage from the year before. In an article in the Consumerist (www.consumerist.com), they urge consumers to check to see if their utility bills are estimated. They say that “Pretty much every gas and electricity company relies on estimates.”
Some Commonwealth Edison customers, in Chicago, that have with Residential Real Time Pricing (RRTP) blog about their estimated utility bills. If access to electric meters is blocked by snow or mean dogs, ComEd bills may be routinely based on estimates. Some people in Chicago sign agreements to read their own meters. Maryland, Olympia, Wash., Washington D.C. and Atlantic City electric customers may receive a normal bill based on an estimate, then they may read their own meter and call those results in to their electric companies. If people cheat on their numbers, they have to pay a “catch up” bill later. Most of the power companies that allow customers to read their own meters also have instructions on doing that on their web sites.
Maybe estimating for bills is better than the route some communities have chosen when faced with a shortage of meter readers: switching to automatic meter reading (AMR) technology. AMR eliminates dangers for the meter readers, like vicious dogs, but it also does away with jobs. Philadelphia, Pa. had 26 fires when they installed smart electrical meters using AMR technology (emfsafetynetwork.org). Some communities actually have moratoriums against smart meters for health issues and invasion of privacy concerns. The health issues are due to the use of radio frequency and electromagnetic fields to read energy usage. For those wishing to read about some possible problems associated with these meters, see “www.W4AR.com”. Several companies offering AMR products have web sites showing the advantages and positive aspects of their meters.