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DEMCO customer shocked by pricey bill, smart meters may be to blame

3 weeks 3 hours 30 minutes ago Monday, November 15 2021 Nov 15, 2021 November 15, 2021 9:41 PM November 15, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Like many DEMCO customers this month, Ryan McCombie was blown away when he received his monthly bill. 

“This month, it was at $360. On average, it’s about $150-$160," McCombie said. 

His search for answers has not been easy. McCombie says the electricity company is giving him the runaround.

“I called and wasted an hour of my time, and there were no answers given," McCombie said. 

A representative from DEMCO told WBRZ there are a couple of contributing factors that could lead to higher bills. Gas prices are also rising, causing the cost of electricity to go up. 

"The high cost of fuel is really impacting our members," DEMCO representative Anne Hawes said. 

But McCombie says that is not it because his kilowatt usage had nearly tripled. If gas pricing was the issue, his kilowatt usage would be the same, with a higher bill price.

"My kilowatt usage this time last year was around 1500. This year it’s up to 3300," McCombie said. 

Another issue could be smart meters that estimate bills based on prior usage if the system cannot get a proper reading. McCombie says a smart meter was installed at his home around the middle of October.

“When they actually did get billed the next time, when the meter was transmitting with the system, sometimes we have to catch up because actual usage is more than what we estimated," Hawes said.

DEMCO offers a solution in the form of payment plans for customers with expensive bills. With the holidays coming up, McCombie says that is the last thing he needs to worry about. 

"I don't know what I'm going to do. Just sitting on it for now," McCombie said. 

For those trying to keep their electricity bills down this winter, DEMCO has tips on how to be more energy efficient. 

On Tuesday, WBRZ learned from DEMCO representatives that a project to install new smart meters has been suspended due to supply chain issues with the digital chip that's included in the meters. The project is 28% complete as of now.

The goal with the project is to eliminate the estimation of bills altogether. 

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