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Carmel business owner shocked after receiving $117,683 power bill

Duke Energy says it was a mistake
A Carmel business owner got quite the shock when she received a six-figure Duke Energy bill for $117,683. The utility says it was a mistake.
Posted at 12:48 PM, Aug 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-12 08:33:10-04

CARMEL — A Carmel business owner got quite the shock when she received a six-figure Duke Energy bill for the month of June.

The bill, which was for service between March 7 and June 3, stated that the company owed $117,683.

Over the past week, WRTV Investigates has heard from more than 100 Duke Energy customers saying their bills had big increases this month.

Kathy Laigaard, co-owner at Carmel Countertops, reached out to WRTV Investigates Kara Kenney for help after receiving the $117,683 bill.

“I was pretty floored,” said Laigaard. “It was not a good thing."

Laigaard has spent five hours on the phone with different Duke Energy representatives.

“I called them as soon as I got the bill and I said this isn't correct," said Laigaard.

Carmel Countertops is about 3,000 square feet, and their typical summer power bill is about $200 to $300, said Laigaard.

Laigaard said she’s received no explanation yet as to how this happened.

She said Duke Energy shut off her power for five days last Thursday.

“We couldn’t run our business,” said Laigaard. “We had no lights. Without a/c it was hot.”

WRTV Investigates contacted Duke Energy, and a spokesperson assured us it was a mistake.

Carmel Countertops does not really owe $117,683.

Duke Energy has corrected their account.

“We are looking to see is it something that happened with the meter, or something that happened on the back end with billing procedures,” said McKenzie Barbknecht, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

WRTV Investigates asked if Duke Energy was looking at whether this was an isolated incident or if the error impacted other customers as well.

“We don't have evidence that this is a larger problem impacting a broader group of customers,” said Barbknecht. “We apologize profusely for this customer's experience. It shouldn't have occurred. We will keep investigating to determine what happened and we do take this really seriously."

Carmel Countertops’ bill was a blunder.

But Duke Energy customers across Central Indiana say their bills are showing big increases they have to pay.

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“We are seeing the highest sustained prices for fuel to produce electricity that we've seen in a decade,” said Barbknecht. “Global demand. Tight fuel supplies and labor shortages at coal mines and railroads are affecting the cost of the power we produce and what we buy on the energy market."

The utility emphasizes the increases for fuel are not permanent.

“Fuel costs rise and fall,” said Barbknecht . “We pass those on to our customers with no markups. They pay what we pay. These are temporary rate increases."

Duke Energy points out that some customers may also be seeing higher usage reflected on their bills due to hot summer temperatures.

According to the utility, the average temperature for the month of July 2022, 78 degrees was three degrees warmer than it was in July 2021, 75 degrees, and three degrees warmer than in June 2022, 75 degrees.

Duke Energy says it is taking steps to help customers manage their bills, including extending interest-free payment plans for eligible customers to six months and adding $100,000 to our Share the Lightfinancial assistance funds.

Eligible customers can obtain the funds through community action agencies statewide, a Duke Energy spokesperson said.

The sticker shock this month comes as Duke Energy is asking state regulators for a 7.2% rate hike.

Tips from Duke Energy

  • Change air filters regularly. A dirty air filter makes an HVAC system work harder, which uses more energy.  
  • Set your thermostat at the highest comfortable setting. The smaller the difference between the inside and outside temperatures, the lower your energy usage and bill will be.  
  • Close blinds, drapes and curtains during the hottest part of the day. Keeping your blinds, drapes and curtains closed will help prevent the sun's rays from heating your house.  
  • Use a ceiling fan in occupied rooms to supplement your air conditioning. Make sure the fans are set to operate in a counterclockwise direction to push cool air down into living spaces.  
  • Grill outdoors. Using your electric oven and stovetop creates a lot of indoor heat. Help save energy by firing up the grill outdoors or prepare meals that don't require cooking.  
  • Turn off unnecessary lights. Be sure to turn off lights when you leave a room. Lights emit heat and cause your air conditioning system to work harder.
  • Budget feature.  Use the budget alert feature on the Duke Energy app to track your usage