Summer is here, and for most parts of the country, it’s predicted to be a hot one. Once again, we’ll hover in air-conditioned homes, offices, coffee shops, and shopping malls. And all of that comes with a cost – a big cost – in the form of higher monthly electricity bills that anyone on a fixed income will find hard to swallow.
The amount that customers spend on electricity for their homes is based primarily on how much power they use. That’s why upticks in electricity bills are often tied to changes in outside temperature. The typical U.S. household will spend an average of $426 for electricity this summer, an increase of about 3 percent from last summer, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.
For many retirees, like 84-year-old Lucille Moore of Indianapolis, there just isn’t room in the budget for higher utility costs. “A lot of seniors are on expensive medication, and a lot of them can’t afford to deviate with unexpected (utility) bills like this,” says Moore.
An AARP Indiana volunteer and retired electronics factory worker, Moore is already fighting her electricity provider, Indianapolis Power & Light Co., over unexplained recent spikes in her bill. Her electric bill shot up in February to $344, a shocker considering she’s usually charged about $100 a month.
Making matters worse for Moore and others in Indianapolis, IPL wants to impose a new monthly charge of $27, up from $17, on nearly every utility customer before they even turn a light on. AARP Indiana is fighting this charge – along with other revenue requests – that would give $97 million a year for IPL.
AARP state offices are working hard to save customers, like Lucille, money on their monthly utility bills. Here’s a look at recent activity in a few states:
- In May, an administrative law judge for the Colorado Public Utilities Commission agreed with AARP Colorado that Xcel Energy should not be allowed to raise rates automatically every year. A final decision on the issue is coming.
- In the Sunshine State, and numerous other states, AARP is prodding utility regulators to permanently lower the rates that homeowners are charged for electricity, natural gas, and other services under recent changes to federal tax law that cut the corporate tax rate down to 21 percent.
- AARP Maine pushed back at public hearings this spring against electricity rate hike requests by Emera Maine, the state’s second-largest utility. Since 2013, Emera Maine’s rates have increased by over 12 percent and this year rates will rise again.
- A recently agreed-to settlement that AARP Oklahoma helped craft will result in savings to Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. ratepayers. According to the state attorney general, residential customers will enjoy, on average, an $18.71 reduction in July 2018. After July, customers are expected to experience savings exceeding $4 a month.
- AARP Puerto Rico is fighting to strengthen consumer protections amid efforts to privatize the island’s electricity service and months-long power outages burdening thousands of Puerto Ricans.
- AARP South Carolina is working tenaciously into the summer to convince state legislators to create a strong utility consumer advocate, provide electricity rate relief, and to repeal a law that charges residential customers of SCE&G, one of the state’s main power suppliers, for the cost of failed projects.
Where does your state stand?
AARP is fighting all across the country to ensure that residential electric and natural gas utility rates are just and reasonable and to uphold access to affordable and reliable telecommunication services, including telephone and high-speed broadband.
To stay up to date on our work in your state, and nationwide, sign up for our e-alerts AARP Advocates e-newsletter, follow me on Twitter @roamthedomes, or visit your state Web page.
Elaine Ryan is the vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration (SASI) for AARP. She leads a team of dedicated legislative staff members who work with AARP state offices to advance advocacy with governors and state legislators, helping people 50-plus attain and maintain their health and financial security.