Oklahomans Struggle With Shockingly High Electric Bills

Tuesday, March 4th 2014, 5:32 pm
By: Craig Day

You may be in for a shock when you open your next electric bill; bitter cold weather has utility bills going sky high. Natural gas is often used to generate electricity, and its price recently hit a five year high.

These price jumps are leaving one town struggling to cope. We received a number of emails from people who live in Yale who can't believe how high their electric bills are. But city leaders say a number of things are behind the big bills.

When the electric bill came to her home in Yale, Dana Beaver thought it would likely be higher, but when she took a look, she couldn't believe her eyes.

"It's just all of a sudden wham. I mean, they're high anyway, but for now they're just out of control," Beaver said.

Beaver says her electric bill went up 55 percent over the month before, and that doesn't even cover our latest cold snap.

"It's higher than any house payments I've ever made, it's higher than my truck payment," said Beaver.

The US Energy Information Administration says cold weather last month nationwide led to an increase in electricity demand and that periods of cold weather can cause natural gas prices to jump. Since natural gas is used to produce electricity, the ripple effect often means a spike in electricity prices.

When this January's weather is compared to last January, which was much milder, it means a big increase in what many people expected to pay.

"Very shocking. I think everyone in town is shocked," Beaver said.

That's the predicament Yale and other towns are in now. Yale gets its power from a federal agency, through the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority. OMPA's rates also went up in January because of needed environmental improvements at power plants required by the federal government.

All the extra costs have to be passed along to customers, like Beaver.

"Very hard to make ends meet, for sure. One income family, it's very hard," said Beaver.

Even the town, which just administers billing, is paying more for its electric bill, $75,000 for this January, compared to $58,000 in January of 2013.

The Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority predicts electric customers across the state will continue to see price increases over the next few years, as environmental issues are addressed, and as the price of natural gas used to generate electricity goes up.

OMPA also predicts all electric customers will face increasing costs over the next few years; increases in fuel costs and to pay for environmental upgrades required by the federal government.