NEW IBERIA, La. (KLFY) — Electric bills after the historic winter freeze are starting to get in the hands of customers, and some are questioning how much they are being charged.
The Lugo family in New Iberia claim they’ve never paid an energy bill over $130 dollars in the five years living in their home, but in the past three months prices tripled and quadrupled what they are used to. They called News 10 for answers.
Their usage records show it’s true their energy consumption shot up the last few months but not even close to triple their next highest bill. The Lugo family does not understand why they are being charged hundreds more, and the answers they are getting are even more confusing.
“It’s not a palace. It’s just a trailer,” Severo and Victoria Lugo said of their small place in New Iberia. They say powering their home has never been as close to expensive as the last three months.
“The highest before $130 average all year round to $450 one month, to $650, now $700 this month,” stated Severo Lugo.
The family paid the bills at first, but couldn’t handle nearly $700. Victoria called Entergy to explain and said she got nowhere until she spoke to a supervisor who told her if she could pay just $250 that day, he’d take the rest of the bill away, and her account shows he did. Their balance is now at zero.
“It was like how can just make it magically disappear when you just told me there was nothing you can do, you know?”, Victoria Lugo asked.
“And what about the other two months? It’s just outrageous,” Severo added.
News Ten reached out to Entergy about the Lugo family’s situation. A spokesman said,
Customer bill increases can be a result of several factors including individual usage and cold winter temperatures. However, each case is unique. We can’t determine what’s driving a customer’s high bill without working with them individually. If they have concerns about their bill, we encourage them to reach out to us at 1-800-ENTERGY.
There are also simple steps customers can take to make sure their home is using energy efficiently and that includes setting their thermostats to 68 degrees in the winter months. Every degree above 68 degrees can increase your bill by about 3%. So, if you crank it up to 78 degrees, for example, you could add 30% to your bill. Customers also can seal air leaks, keep air circulating and open curtains and blinds to let in the warm sunlight. In addition, Entergy Louisiana offers free home energy assessments through the company’s Energy Smart Program. Visit entergy-louisiana.com for more info.
We want to work with customers who may be having difficulty paying their bills. That’s why we have a number of customer bill assistance plans including levelized billing as a deferred payment plan that allows customers to defer payment for up to 12 months. Customers should visit myEntergy or call 1-800- Entergy for additional bill payment options.Brandon Scardigli, Entergy Spokesman
The Lugo’s don’t think that the answers their problem. They say their thermostat is set at 68 degrees, and they wonder if their meters were being read correctly. After all, automatic meters were only just installed this week.
“Several other people are going through this as well I’m sure,” Victoria Lugo said. Severo Lugo agreed to say, “Definitely something is amiss, but it’s coming out of our pockets.”
The spike in energy usage on their phone showed a correlating cost of $360, not $690, and the Lugo’s said they pay their bills in full every month.
Last week the Public Service Commission asked Energy companies about potential big bills.
Entergy said the cost of natural gas used to create energy and high volume usage is what’s impacted the cost of utilities during the storm, but that answer was not well received.
Foster Campbell, Dist. 5 Louisiana Public Service Commissioner, said in the virtual meeting, “I know you’re not trying to. You don’t want to raise the bills because it’s going to cause problems, but it’s hard to explain natural gas went up for three days and your bills jumped double. That’s not going to work.”
You can read more on the Public Service Commission’s call the energy executives here.