Utility customers say their heating bills are outrageous - Local/State - NewsObserver.com: "Jeannette Bray keeps her home thermostat at 65 degrees. Some weeks she shuts off the heating upstairs and bundles up in layers of clothing.
Still, her energy bill from mid-December to mid-January came to $682.09 for electricity and natural gas heat. The $436.84 portion for electricity covered the lights and other basics.
'I'm never comfortable,' Bray said. 'You're just cold all the time.'...
... Residents in this city of 49,000 were stunned by the size of their utility bills this winter, in some cases triple the expected amount. The monster bills have led to packed city council meetings and calls for an independent audit. More than 3,000 have joined the Facebook group, "Tired of Paying HIGH utility bills in Eastern NC!," where charges of fiscal mismanagement fly against city officials.
The NAACP has taken up the cause as well, and plans to hold a rally in the city later this month...
... City officials blame the higher bills on a convergence of unfortunate events: a 4-week cold snap, a costly upgrade to the municipal electric system, and delays in meter reading that caused some residents to get billed for 36 days -- adding an extra week's worth of power costs.
'At any given time our rates reflect the direct cost of service,' said Fred Horne, utilities director. 'We have reached a point in our system where we had to build additional infrastructure, not only to serve existing customers but also customers of the future.'
The public outcry could be a foretaste of what public officials across the state can expect in response to rising energy costs. North Carolinians have long had some of the cheapest energy prices in the nation. But power costs are expected to rise in this state and elsewhere in the coming years as utilities build power plants, replace infrastructure and comply with environmental guidelines..."