Increase in utility bills? Consumers says weather is to blame - WNEM TV 5

Increase in utility bills? Consumers says weather is to blame

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(Source: WNEM) (Source: WNEM)
MIDLAND COUNTY, MI (WNEM) -

As the temperatures drop, some Mid-Michigan residents might actually turn their thermostats down.

Dozens, if not nearly 100, Mid-Michigan residents reached out to TV5 complaining their Consumers Energy bills have spiked to double, sometimes triple the normal amount.

“I think they need to be investigated,” said Nathan Beauchamp, resident.

Beauchamp is upset about his utility bill and he’s not alone.

Several residents believe Consumers Energy is charging them a lot more for heat and electricity. They reached out to TV5 to ask the tough questions.

“It’s not just me. There’s a whole bunch of people talking about even being double, triple. You know as far as their bills,” Beauchamp said.

TV5 reached out to Consumers Energy representative Debra Dodd.

“Because of this cold weather our average customer is using about 25 percent more natural gas this winter than last winter,” she said.

TV5 reminded Dodd there have been plenty of cold winters in Mid-Michigan without similar bulging bills.

“The cost our customers are paying right now for natural gas is about 60 percent lower than 10 years ago,” Dodd said.

She was quick to point out she has seen her own bill rise as well. She also said the last billing cycle was 35 days, which is six days more than the previous cycle. The increase is because of the holidays.

Dodd said that extra time combined with the cold weather helped trigger the higher bills.

She said there is help for people struggling to keep the lights and heat on.

“I would encourage anyone who has difficulty paying their bills to please contact us or call 211,” Dodd said.

She said customers can take measures to lower their bills by turning down the thermostat and sealing up leaks.

"A quarter inch gap around your door is equal to a softball size hole in your door. So you want to make sure any little leaks around doors and windows are caulked or sealed," Dodd said.

She admits shutoffs happen this time of year, but only in rare cases.

"Customers obviously receive bills. They receive several notices saying you know, 'please call us. You are past due on your bill,'" Dodd said.

She said her company is doing everything it can to make sure people can find ways to pay their bills.

Chris Smith, resident, said he knows people who are struggling to keep up.

"I've seen a lot of testimonials on how one person has to struggle for this to pay the Consumers. You know, vice versa like food for instance. This one older gal, she had to sacrifice going grocery shopping to pay her Consumers," Smith said.

As for Beauchamp, he can pay his bills but he insists he is forking over more money than he should be.

“I think there’s something wrong with their end and they need to be either investigated and fix it and make it right for the people,” he said.

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