Electric bills with new rates sent to customers

Posted: Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The first series of electric bills with sharply increased rates started showing up in Juneau's mailboxes this week.

Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., the private utility that provides the city's power, sent about 700 customers their bills on Monday and about 875 bills on Tuesday, according to Gayle Wood, AEL&P's director of consumer affairs.

She said the company hadn't received any "angry" calls regarding the new bills, but some customers had remarked they were "elated" that the bills were less than they had anticipated.

Wood said the lower-than-expected bills are a result of the city's strong conservation efforts since a series of avalanches last month knocked out part of the transmission line that links Juneau with its main source of hydroelectric power. The company has been using pricey diesel fuel to generate most of the city's power since then, raising the average residential rates by 447 percent. This week's bills are the first to reflect the higher costs.

AEL&P customer, Larry Buzzell, was one of the first to receive his bill. Buzzell said he has been carefully monitoring how he uses power and has manage to drop his electric usage by 25 percent.

Buzzell said his typical bill is under $100; his new one is $333.

He said the worst part of the new bill was the message that said the automatic payment plan, in which AEL&P draws money directly from Buzzell's bank account, wouldn't work because it had exceeded the authorized limit.

Wood said the company is working with customers to temporarily raise the limits on their automatic payment plans to cover the increased bills.

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