Public Service Commissioner blames lack of competition, other factors for sky-high energy bills

Published: Jul. 19, 2022 at 12:33 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - One member of the Public Service Commission, Dr. Craig Greene, is pushing for change after his office has gotten hundreds of complaints within the last two weeks about high energy bills.

One woman who came to Gray TV’s WAFB in Baton Rouge was shocked to open her most recent bill from Entergy and discover she owed $52,271.81. Mary Harris says she had to sit down when she first opened the bill.

“Your chest hurts and everything else because you’re wondering what in the world is going on. How do you get a bill like this? It was $52,271.81,” said Harris.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked her if she knew the bill was a mistake the moment she opened it.

“Oh yeah because I had just paid the bill last month and it wasn’t even over a hundred dollars,” said Harris.

The bill came to her mother’s home and Harris says no one is actually at the home through the week. In fact, most of the time, the lights are not even on. She immediately called Entergy who told her there was not a gas leak and that there had to be some kind of calculation error. The power company later corrected it and now the bill is around $350. She says that is still a problem.

“How a bill go from $65 to $353 in less than 30 days?” said Harris.

Harris is like many customers these days, staring down startlingly high bills and at the mercy of energy companies.

“People are fed up with that and quite frankly, I am too,” said Dr. Greene.

Dr. Greene tells WAFB just in the last two to three weeks they’ve gotten more than 300 complaints and that’s not even a full tally. Greene says he is just as frustrated as customers.

WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Greene what his response is to all of those complaints from customers that are basically fed up with their bills.

“Well, they’re very warranted and they’re calling the right person and the right office,” Dr. Greene added.

Dr. Greene blames presidential politics and hurricanes for the mess but he believes they have to act right now to get things moving in a better direction.

“Where we are is very frustrating because we have the policies of the past that have put us into the problems of the present so there’s not a bunch that we can do about that in the immediate right now but if we can change those policies, we cannot have this problem in the future,” said Dr. Greene.

While it’s not an overnight solution, Dr. Greene says a big problem that keeps bills high is the monopoly that energy companies have in Louisiana. With fewer companies competing for customers’ business, Dr. Greene says they are basically stuck.

“You can pick everything else in your life except your electricity provider so what would that be like? What’s the pros and the cons,” said Dr. Greene. “I want to have a very open conversation about that.”

He wants to open things up to more competition. Dr. Greene also says we have to explore energy efficiency and consider infrastructure changes across the state to better withstand hurricanes. Bottom line is that Dr. Greene says we have to start the conversation today to start fixing things for the future.

“If we’re doing the same thing we’ve been doing for the past 50 years just because that’s the way we’ve always done it, we got to have a better conversation about what could the future be like and how it could be better,” said Greene.

WAFB did reach out to Entergy for comment on this report. While a representative for Entergy said he could not comment on the specific points made by the commissioner at this time, they did provide the following information regarding high energy bills.

“Higher bills have been a result of three things: Natural gas costs, storm restoration costs, and, more recently, record-setting power usage. The strain we’re feeling at gas pumps is the same strain that natural gas-fired generating facilities are facing. Essentially, it’s costing us more to produce and deliver power and that’s showing up on customers’ bills. However, we are encouraged to see some mild moderation occur with natural gas prices and are hopeful this trend continues.”

Anyone who has a problem with their bills and wants to voice their frustration or maybe work toward a solution can show up at the next Public Service Commission meeting that allows public comment.. That is coming up on Wednesday, July 27, 2022.

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