CADDO PARISH, La. (KTAL/KMSS)- Parish Commissioners discussed solutions for rising energy bills and heard from residents about increasing costs on Monday.
“My mother-in-law is on a fixed income, so she cannot afford to pay for her electricity bill. She lives across the street from me. Now her bill is $550, but she’s only bringing in $800 something. She’s retired. So something is wrong,” one resident told the commission.
Commissioner Steven Jackson introduced a resolution to put a moratorium on utility shutoffs which passed during Monday’s work session. He said a constituent in her 60s’ played him a voicemail of an automated message from SWEPCO saying her electricity would be disconnected, prompting the idea.
He invited SWEPCO officials to the meeting to address why electric bills are so high. SWEPCO said it because natural gas prices have more than doubled since last year.
However, SWEPCO cannot disconnect service during extreme weather. Louisiana’s public service law prohibits the energy provider from disconnecting utilities during heat advisories. Plus, the company’s goal is to keep customers connected.
“We don’t want to do disconnects. We want to find a way to keep power on, keep people comfortable, and work with them on their bill as much as we can,” said SWEPCO External Affairs’ Michael Corbin.
Corbin told the commission that SWEPCO could work with a customer for weeks or even months before disconnecting their service and encourages anyone to call if they receive an automated message. They also encourage residents to use average monthly billing to avoid significant price spikes during the summer.
Natural gas generates 45% of its power. However, SWPECO is diversifying into wind energy and solar power, which have no fuel surcharge.