It's because the estimated usage was much lower than I was expecting, and just over half the amount actually showing on my meter. I was expecting the usual larger than actual estimated bill again this month, especially because the actual from the same period last year was one of those outrageously high "catch up bills" resulting from the company's failure to read meters.
So, how did the company come up with this month's ridiculously low usage estimate? If you sat through December's PSC hearing on the General Investigation of the company's billing, meter reading and customer service practices, you'd know that the company has two estimation routines in place. One uses same period from prior year, adjusted to current weather and days in billing period. The other uses prior month data.
A phone call to a delightful customer service representative named Kelly advised me that my bill was based on prior year actual. Using the handy-dandy usage history graph on my current bill, I find that my last year same period was over 4,000 kwh. So, Kelly informs me that because the company "renumbered" me and adjusted my billing period, the current estimate also used some data from the following month on my bar graph. That month's usage was 2,406. So, Potomac Edison's average of 4000 and 2406 is 2,576? No wonder there's an investigation going on. Helpful and pleasant Kelly offered to adjust my bill because we determined that my next month actual reading will produce an outrageous bill. But, it really doesn't matter since I am on the average payment plan. However, many Potomac Edison customers whose bills were estimated by the same method mine was this month may not be. Those customers are going to get gigantic bills next month, bills they may be unable to pay. As if that's not bad enough, the unusually cold weather is going to exacerbate this problem tremendously.
I thought I heard FirstEnergy telling the PSC Commissioners that it had solved all the estimation routine problems. It looks like that's not true, and a whole new wave of unhappy customers is quietly building and should start crashing in during the month of February. How much longer is this going to go on? How much longer are West Virginians supposed to put up with this stunning incompetence? Let's get with the program here, PSC!
So, in conclusion, let's add a little levity by going back to my intro. paragraph and examining the reason for my unusually bulky bill. That was because it contained ELEVEN (11), count 'em 11, copies of this month's bill insert. The insert urges me to sign up for FirstEnergy's eBill program so I can "use less paper" which "is better for the environment." Right, FirstEnergy, as soon as you take your own advice. And to add one last giggle on top, my customer service rep., Kelly, offered to send me some energy efficiency literature because that's what she's been instructed to do when she gets a high bill call. But, wait a sec, FirstEnergy has been fighting against energy efficiency programs in West Virginia (and many other states). As well, maybe customers wouldn't have such high bills if the company read every meter every month until it established accurate base data and corrected its hideously inaccurate estimation routines. Does FirstEnergy have any literature on that problem? Probably not.
Loving those "merger synergies," FirstEnergy!