Winter electric bill horror stories in 2018

Alex Crees
By Alex Crees

Winter is finally exiting – and hopefully taking some of the year’s highest electricity costs with it. This year’s winter seemed especially brutal, marked by polar vortexes, soaring natural gas prices and week-after-week nor’easters (yes, nor’easters plural).

What were some of the worst electric bill horror stories this winter had to offer? Read on to find out.

The $284 Billion Bill

It’s an amount that could buy Netflix or 747 Boeing 747s, as the Washington Post calculated. It’s also the amount that one Pennsylvania resident received on her monthly electric bill – $284,460,000,000, to be exact. Mary Horomanski from Erie, Pa., had to readjust her glasses after reading her Penelec electric bill. Luckily, the utility was quick to assure the family it was simply an error in decimal placement. The actual bill – while still higher than usual – was only $284.46.

The Polar Vortex

The beginning of 2018 ushered in some of the worst winter weather imaginable as states across the nation faced plunging temperatures, heavy snow and freezing rain. Even Florida’s capital Tallahassee saw an inch or two – its first measurable snowfall in nearly 30 years. So, what did that mean for people’s electric bills? You guessed it: they skyrocketed. The U.S. burned the most natural gas ever on New Year’s Day, consuming a total of 143 billion cubic feet. The record demand, particularly in the Northeast, sent natural gas spot prices surging to 60 times the going rate and led to shortages that saw gas being imported from Russia.

The Squatters

A single mom living in California discovered she had a few extra housemates – squatters living in her detached garage – after receiving an electric bill for more than $700. Tameka Davis believes at least two transients moved into the space just after she moved in around Thanksgiving. Davis, who told NBC San Diego, “I just barely got a TV and I don’t have anything else that is hooked into it except for my refrigerator,” said her first electric bill was $500 and the next was nearly $800. Fortunately, Davis’ landlord started a GoFundMe on her behalf to help raise money to pay for the bill. The fundraiser’s monetary goal has since been met.

The Attempted Murder

An Oregon man angered over utility bills allegedly tried to suffocate his roommate with plastic wrap, according to local authorities. Leo Miller, 71, was indicted on multiple charges, including attempted murder, second-degree assault, unlawful use of a weapon and strangulation after being accused in the Feb. 4 attack on 74-year-old Charlotte Simons. Simons was reportedly sitting on a recliner watching TV when Miller held a piece of cellophane wrap over her nose and mouth. Per court documents, he was upset over the amount of utility bills he had to pay.

The Investigation

Sure, nobody is happy when his or her electric bills increase – but the customers of Central Maine Power might have been the unhappiest of all this winter. Maine utility regulators decided to launch an inquiry that could lead to a formal investigation after 274 CMP customers complained about a spike in their electric bills over a two-month period, The Press Herald reported. In some cases, customers reported bills four times the amount received during the same time frame last year. While CMP initially attributed the record-high bills to increased customer usage during colder months and faulty appliances, the volume of customer complaints prompted the utility to issue a statement that officials were searching for problems in the billing system that could account for the charges.