(WFXR)– Concerned customers across Southwest Virginia are demanding answers, after some say their power bills have doubled, even tripled, in this latest billing cycle.

Jacob McCoy says he received his latest Appalachian Power bill, with the billing period starting in November and ending in December, and was shocked by what he saw.

“I happened to see that in the bill there was a 4 instead of a 1, where it generally was,” said McCoy.

He says his bill increased by $260.

“I didn’t have anything extra running in my house. I didn’t have family come over for the holidays. I didn’t run Christmas lights on my house. I taped my windows to keep the heat in my house,” said McCoy.

Next stop, McCoy says he called Appalachian Power to figure out what happened. He claims they responded by explaining fuel costs, inflation, and how to be more energy efficient.

However, Mccoy says he already considers himself energy efficient. Eventually, he started a petition to bring attention to the problem and get clear answers.

“I did not expect it to grow into what it grew to, but all of a sudden I had over 200 people reach out to me and give me their story as well,” said Mccoy.

The petition has over 400 signatures and growing.

McCoy explains the initial idea for the petition was to gain more attention to the problem. According to him, he has reached out to Governor Glenn Youngkin, the utility commission, and others.

“We have no electricity provider. We have to use Appalachian Power. So if we have to use them, they set the rates, and we cannot do anything about it. If you don’t team together, speak about it, and reach out to people — nothing is ever going to be done,” McCoy.

McCoy believes the money that residents are being charged is not being used for the correct purposes.

“Transmission fees are doubled on this bill, your distribution fees for your electricity is double on this bill, but yet I can go in and look at all 269 pages of the Q3 filings, and the line item is another investment, ” said McCoy.

McCoy boils it down to this: he and other customers want answers and they want to know where their money is going.

Communication spokeswoman with Appalachian Power, Teresa Hall received questions from people across Southwest Virginia–through WFXR’s Kelsey Jean-Baptiste– regarding the increase in their bill:

  1. What are the causes for increases in electric bills? The base rate charge for electricity and the fuel charge have both increased. A typical customer – one who uses 1,000-kilowatt hours of electricity – is paying about $30 more now for electricity compared to this time last year. (If you use more you pay more, so people who use 2,000-kilowatt hours a month will see a $60 increase.) Another reason is the recent cold snap. These increases combined with the recent cold temperatures have led to higher bills. When temperatures dip below 30 degrees it takes more electricity to keep homes warm – you use more electricity. Even if you don’t touch your thermostat when temperatures dip below 30 degrees heat pumps and furnaces work harder to keep homes warm.
  2. What are the main things in a household that pulls electricity? Heat pumps, furnaces, clothes driers, stoves.
  3. How much does the energy market play a role in bill increases? A customer’s bill is tied to the amount of electricity they use. The fuel charge reimburses the company for the purchase of coal and natural gas to generate electricity. The price of fuel on the energy market has increased dramatically over the past year due to inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine. 
  4. Some residents in SW Virginia believe digital meters are being read inaccurately. Does this play a role in the increase? We began installing new meters in 2017, so most of these meters have been in place for several years now. They are read accurately.
  5. Some residents also believe they are getting charged hidden fees. Is this true? Is it possible to break down how users are getting charged? There are no hidden fees. Your bill – whether you view it online or have it delivered by mail – provides a breakdown of the charges. We are a regulated company. The Virginia State Corporation Commission must approve what customers are charged for electricity. 
  6. Can you break down the bill? What do transmission, distribution services, and generation services mean? These are the costs broken down into groups as to what it takes to provide service. The cost of generating the electricity at our power plants, the cost of getting that power into the transmission grid, and the cost of stepping that power down in order to safely deliver it to residential, industrial, and business customers via the company’s distribution system. It is exceptionally complicated with lots of moving parts.
  7. How are some users still charged double the amount of their last bill, when they turn their system off and install LED strips for electricity? I don’t know this specific customer. What I can tell you is that customers are charged based on the amount of electricity they use. The meter calculates how much electricity a customer uses.  
  8. What can residents do to lower electricity usage? There are many things customers can do from sealing cracks around doors and windows to ensuring the air filters in their furnaces are changed regularly. We offer free home energy assessments for our customers. To learn more about this program visit our website at takechargeva.com
  9. How is AEP working with residents to pay off electric bills? Are their payment plans? We do offer payment plans, and we encourage customers to reach out to us by phone or private message on Facebook to find which program works best for them.
  10. What does AEP want residents to know? We offer energy efficiency programs and a variety of payment options, including the Average Monthly Payment Plan (AMP). AMP is different from budget billing. AMP works to level a customer’s bill from month to month, which helps avoid seasonal spikes in the summer and winter months.

President of Prillaman Mechanical Heating and AC, Tito Sainz says, when it comes to your HVAC systems, it’s important to understand how they work.

“The auxiliary heat is going to supplement the heat pump during that cold spell. The emergency heat is basically going to take over,” said Sainz.

At that point, it’s purely electrical power which raises customers’ bills. That’s why he says it is important to keep up to date with your units.

“One of the most important things is to always change your air filters. They need to be changed often,” he said. “Normally, we recommend you check your systems once a year as far as your heating goes.”

Also, keep your thermostat in one setting — do not fluctuate it — because that can cause the system to run more.