LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Hundreds of First Electric Cooperative customers are sharing copies of their recent bill, saying the amount owed has multiplied since the historic snowstorm hit central Arkansas in February.
Officials with the utility company said the demand for natural gas increased during the snowstorm while supply decreased, causing prices to skyrocket. In the aftermath, the company said members are going to have ‘extremely high’ electric bills for the next nine months.
First Electric Cooperative customer Hannah Lopez moved into her first home with her husband just two weeks before the snowstorm, and she’s keeping a close eye on their energy use.
“I just don’t want to wake up one day and have a $300 water bill or $300 electric bill like some people have,” Lopez said. “We had an extra $25 on our bill for the adjusted usage.”
Dozens of Arkansans have shared copies of their bills with KARK 4 News. One showed more than $71 in the cost adjusted column, while another showed more than $88. Someone even sent a screenshot showing their bill was over 99 percent higher than last year.
First Electric VP of marketing and development Tonya Sexton said the cost-adjusted line has always been on the bill. While it doesn’t usually get much attention, extreme weather can make a big difference.
“What we budgeted for an entire year was used in one month,” Sexton explained.
When pressed on what customers can expect on the next nine bills, Sexton said, “It’s very hard for me to tell them what to prepare for.”
That uncertainty seems to be little help to customers like Lopez, who says she will manage with the price fluctuations but wonders about others.
“Mentally we are prepared, but I know a lot of people don’t prepare for next month. They prepare for right now.”