This is how FirstEnergy's West Virginia subsidiaries' usage estimation process has become FUBAR. The only way to fix it now it to dump out that pot of soup and start fresh.
And the only way to start fresh is to read every customer's meter, every month, for at least 12 consecutive months and start with fresh data.
This fact was made perfectly clear to me during my personal "customer service" moment during the WV PSC public comment hearings in Shepherdstown last week.
After witnessing customer after customer being whisked off backstage "to be taken care of" by Potomac Edison personnel after they complained to the Commissioners about their service during the hearing, I started to wonder if the customers were being tied up, consumed by wolves, or simply given Potomac Edison beer cozies and pats on the head before being sent on their way. Curiosity got the better of me when the murmur of an argument somewhere off to stage left escalated into shouting clearly heard throughout the auditorium, and resulted in several bored police officers running through the auditorium to break it up and make the customer move 25 feet away from the Potomac Edison employee he was harassing in the hallway. I simply had to visit the lion's den for myself after the hearing ended!
So, I soon found myself in Potomac Edison's little backstage Happy Town, where Chrissy was eager to solve my problem. She spent a while studying her computer before admitting that she really couldn't help me and went to fetch "analyst" Chris. He spent a bunch of time staring at his computer too. All this chin scratching to figure out why my usage was overestimated by 800 kwh on my last bill, and to assure me that upcoming planned estimates would not be based on "catch up" amounts from the prior year. Chris finally concluded that Potomac Edison's estimation process was correct and wouldn't result in incorrectly estimated bills over the winter. But he could not explain what had failed in my most recent bill that resulted in a rather severe over estimation. If they couldn't figure out what went wrong last month, how could they know that it wouldn't reoccur? The assurances I received were so useless, I started wishing for a Potomac Edison beer cozy to take home as a consolation prize, but it appeared to be locked away somewhere off site, along with Chris and Chrissy's senses of humor.
I did enjoy listening to the "private" conversation going on in the next cubicle where one happy customer referred to a customer service representative as "that brat." Chrissy failed to be amused. I got the idea that she thinks her fellow customer service representatives are never rude or unhelpful. You just keep telling yourself that, Chrissy. I wonder if there's a Rude Customer Service Representatives Anonymous chapter in Fairmont?
"Hi, my name is Brat and I'm rude."
"This week, I told a customer that we only had to read her meter once a year."
"That's okay, Brat!"
"And then I made her go out and read her own meter, although she told me she only had one leg and the porch was covered in ice."
"One Day At A Time, Brat!"
"But then I told her she had read the meter wrong and I was going to have to charge her a penalty for that."
"You can do better tomorrow, Brat!"
"And then she asked to speak to my supervisor, so I made her wait while I answered the Giraffe Riddle on Facebook, and then I hung up on her."
"Ohhh, Brat, we love you anyhow!"
The timer on my patience finally got close to zero, so I thanked my Happy Town guides for their time and got up to leave. That was apparently the cue for Creepy Supervisor guy to get in my face and ask me if I had been helped. Oh, c'mon, dude, you were standing right there listening to this whole sad spectacle and I'm sure you weren't doing that because you're hard of hearing!
Silly, silly, silly!
So, here's what's wrong with FirstEnergy's estimation process -- it's broken and cannot be fixed!
When FirstEnergy stopped reading electric meters to save money in the fall of 2011, it created a string of inaccurate data. In the fall of 2012, when this bad data started being used to calculate new estimates, the problem pancaked into some really crazy bills. Then FirstEnergy thought they could devise some method to tweak their algorithm that would set things right. Only that didn't work. They tweaked some more. And tweaked some more. And tweaked some more. What's left is something that is now a completely useless mess. FirstEnergy needs to quit dumping time and money into future tweaks and begin rebuilding an accurate data base. At their own expense, of course.