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Retired Indy woman says she had to pickup part-time job to pay her electric bill

We reached out to AES to try to find out why customers in Indiana are reporting significant bill increases.
Sandra Milazzo.PNG
Posted at 1:56 PM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-08 18:39:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS — Dozens of AES Indiana customers have reported seeing significantly higher electric bills, including a retired woman who says she's had to take on a part-time job just to pay her bill.

Customers report seeing a hike from November through December and some say their bill has doubled or even tripled.

WRTV spoke to several customers who shay they're paying more for their electric right now than they ever have before.

Sandra Milazzo, 80, said her most recent bill was at least $200 more than the previous month.

"I don't know what they are doing but there is something going on," Milazzo said.

Milazzo's most recent bill was $708.99. She says she knows she's luckier than many families, because her daughter and son-in-law live with her and are able to help her pay the bills.

Even so, the retiree says she's had to pick up a part-time job to make sure everything is able to get paid.

Milazzo's family isn't the only one dealing with high bills.

Lisa Peck, who has lived in her home for 21 years, said her recent bill is the highest she's ever seen.

"This can not be right," Peck told WRTV.

Her most recent AES bill was $907.65.

"I was like okay what's going on here," Peck said. "t's like a house payment. I am like, 'how are we going to pay this crazy'."

Peck is already on budget billing with AES. Under her plan, she pays a fixed amount for an entire year.

Her budget bill was $360 per month, Peck said AES told her the amount she paid didn't cover what she actually used, so now she is left paying the difference.

"I know we'll get by and we'll try our best to make ends meet, but I know there are families that are really probably scrapping and figuring, 'Am I going to need a part time job or something else? A better income, to help pay this bill.' It's just a necessity, electricity," Peck said.

AES says there are three things that are contributing to the higher electric bills.

  • Cold Temperatures. It takes more energy to heat your home when temperatures drop. 
  • Increased Usage. With people continuing to work from home (remote/flexible schedules), there is an increase in electrical use. This, combined with cold temperatures, can cause a rise in bills.
  • Fuel Prices. The increase in natural gas consumption for electric power production and other sectors and increased market pricing is impacting utility bills this winter.

"A lot more increased usage, colder temperatures. We had that really cold temperature where people are still seeing that impacting their bills as well. In 2022 we did see the highest increase in rates in terms of natural gas," Kelly Young from AES said.

Keep in mind, a higher bill reflects the amount of energy a customer’s home consumed. Most people spend more time at home in the cold weather, so they’re using more electricity. Their heating system works much harder to keep your home comfortable in cold weather. Even if they don't change their thermostat setting, it runs longer to heat a home.

And most importantly, this isn’t – and shouldn’t just be about AES customers. One report on utility bills comparing December 2021 vs Dec 2022 showed increases from Citizens Energy Group (43% increase), Duke Energy (29%) and AES (19%). This impact is hitting all of us.
Kelly Young, AES

But Milazzo said she hasn't changed her habits.

"Give me a break. I know what I use every day. It's not that much different," she said.

WRTV Meteorologist Todd Klaassen says temperatures in the Indianapolis area do not corroborate AES's explanation for the higher bills.

"Basically December and February so far have been seasonable. January was very warm. In fact, it was the 9th warmest on record with an average temp of 37.1°," Klassen said.

A fuel adjustment charge (FAC) is submitted quarterly by utility companies to the Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) to increase customers bills due to the rising cost of natural gas.

AES said in November they received approval from the IURC for an increase related to fuel costs.

On November 30, 2022, AES Indiana received approval from the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) for its quarterly Fuel Adjustment Charge (FAC). AES Indiana customers will see a FAC increase of $3.27 per 1,000 kWh — approximately 2% of the total bill — beginning December 2022. This FAC increase impacts all AES Indiana customers, both residential and C&I customers. This increase will go into effect November 30 for the December billing period, which began with November 30 meter reads (for some billing cycles, this may include usage days as early as October 31). This will be reflected in your AES Indiana bill.

We are anticipating a decrease in our current FAC 138 filing, which was filed in December. However, that has not yet been approved by the IURC and we don’t know what the decrease is at this point. We do know that the decrease will be reflected in March, April and May 2023 billing. We will update our website with this information upon approval from the IURC
Kelly Young, AES

For the average home, that would mean an increase of less than $10 a month. A significantly lower amount than the increases we are hearing about.

"I don't have the budget for this, this is crazy. It's made me second guess and go around the house and start unplugging things and reading about am I doing something wrong," Peck said.

If you want to challenge your energy bill, experts say it's best to contact your utility company first and give them a chance to address your concerns.

Make sure you note when you made contact with your utility and who you spoke with.

If you aren't satisfied reach out to the IURC consumer affairs division.

If you can't pay your electric bill there are ways to get help:

AES says they do offer one free meter reading if you think you got a false reading through their smart meters.

AES also shared tips for customers to help them become more energy efficient and try and cut down on their bills during each part of the year. You can read those below.

Warm weather months:

  1. Turn off unneeded lights and heat-producing appliances.
  2. Clean or replace cooling system filters every 60 days.
  3. Clean leaves, debris and obstructions from the air intake side of air conditioner's or heat pump's outdoor compressor unit. (Make sure the central control switch is "OFF" first.)
  4. Keep windows and doors closed when air conditioning is on.
  5. Use the bathroom exhaust fan when showering or bathing to help eliminate humidity problems.
  6. Landscaping can provide shade to your home and significantly reduce your cooling costs.

Cold weather months:

  1. Clean or replace heating system filters every 60 days.
  2. Keep fireplace dampers closed, except during use.
  3. Close and seal crawl space vents and openings.
  4. Wrap insulation around water heaters and water lines in unheated crawl spaces or basements.
  5. Apply heat-shrink plastic around the inside of leaky windows.

All year:

  1. Apply caulking and weather stripping around interior garage or exterior basement entry doors, and around exterior door and window frames. 
  2. Install insulated draperies or blinds around large windows.
  3. Keep registers and air vents clear of obstructions.
  4. Set your thermostat wisely.

For more on the FAC, click here or here.