EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – It still feels like summer in September and many customers, including John Van Pelt, have been experiencing extraordinarily high electric bills.
“It’s taxing [and] I’ve called about high electric bills and certain things not being right,” said the Edmond resident, who says he’d hoped his family’s budget conscious ways and a new, more efficient air conditioning unit would help bring the costs of his monthly bills down.
However, after several months, which included this summer’s record high heat, he said she started to wonder if perhaps, there was something wrong with his meter readings.
The U.S Energy Information Administration forecast that the average cost for residential electricity was up 7.5% from 2021, largely reflecting “an increase in wholesale power prices driven by rising natural gas prices”.
He told KFOR he contacted Edmond Electric and did not initially hear anything back, but when someone finally did get back with him, they told him a technician had been physically checking his meter.
“They can’t get in my back yard, so how are they reading this meter,” he said, while showing KFOR the electric meter surrounded by a backyard fence several feet high.
He says the height along with his dogs that are typically in the back that could prevent meter readers from accessing it.
He decided to cover up the meter with tape to prove no one had been reading it.
After KFOR also contacted Edmond Electric, things took a turn.
Prior to Tuesday’s interview, Van Pelt called to say police had shown up at his home to accompany a meter reader.
“They’ve got police and everything else over here demanding that I take [the tape] off,” he said.
A city representative confirmed that covering up the meter was a violation of the city’s policy.
“That is against code and against the law to tamper with that property,” said Bill Begley from the City of Edmond, who also said utility bills often rise during the summer months because it’s the hottest, driest time of the year.
He also said meter technicians can read even analog meters from far distances using a “scope” to read the numbers.
“If [technicians] don’t have access to read the numbers, they leave a hanger on the door and it instructs the customer to let us know that that they’re available for when we can come back out and read the meter,” he added.
However, he was not able to show what tools they use or confirm how far away the tools can be from a meter and still work. He also said the utility has attempted to contact John several times, but could not provide proof, includes dates or methodology.
“We do have records of him not allowing us access of not responding to request for payments for both current and past charges,” said Begley to KFOR.
John said he’s not opposed to paying his bills or to having the City install a new, digital “smart” reader. However, he suspects the utility has been giving him bills based on estimated billing which may also account for higher than normal bills.
“The lady that I spoke to this afternoon came right out and told me that they could do it on an average. Well, they shouldn’t have said that they physically read it.”
“The bill could be higher or it could be lower if they read it every time,” said John.
“The lady that I spoke to this afternoon came right out and told me that they could do it on an average. Well, they shouldn’t have said that they physically read it,” he added.
Edmond Electric saif they do regular outreach to make sure they’re connected to customers and they’re also confident they are getting accurate readings from their equipment.