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Electric, Gas, Water Customers in Birmingham Face Higher Bills This Month. How to Manage

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While many Alabama Power, Birmingham Water Works (BWW) and Spire Energy ratepayers could face higher bills, all three have payment options for customers, according to representatives from the utilities. (FILE)
By Sym Posey
The Birmingham Times

With the cold snap from the recent arctic blast gone for now, the freezing temps have left behind higher utility bills. Electric, gas and water bills may be more than doubled for some this cycle, forcing customers to re-budget in order to make payments.

While many Alabama Power, Birmingham Water Works (BWW) and Spire Energy ratepayers could face higher bills, all three have payment options for customers, according to representatives from the utilities. Here’s a look at what’s available.

Gas

Vernita Rodgers, Community and Agency Services Manager for Spire said, “We have a couple different options for customers who may be seeing an increase in their bills due to the weather.”

The first: budget billing. It is what people typically call a level pay. “In that option, once the customer enrolls, their level pay amount stays the same for 12 months, so it avoids those fluctuations [as] the weather changes throughout the year,” she said.

Spire also offers standard payment arrangements. “If customers aren’t interested in budget billing, we have standard payment arrangements that help spread out cost over a number of months depending on what the customer is interested in,” she said.

“For customers who need a little more assistance, we always recommend that they visit our websites that will lead to different local organizations that are able to provide additional assistance with gas or any other utilities and sometimes other needs as well, “said Rodgers.

Those organizations include, 211 Agency Assistance, a free service that can help customers find local community agencies that provide assistance for those in need; Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs; bill payment assistance, energy crisis assistance, weatherization, and energy-related home repairs, and DollarHelp, a program that helps customers on a limited income that may need assistance paying their gas bills.

For more visit www.spireenergy.com or call 800-582-1234

Water

Rick Jackson, Public Relations Manager at BWW, said the below freezing temperatures last week have left a lot of customers with busted pipes and leaks.

Recently Birmingham Water Works Board updated its Leak Adjustment Policy for customers, he said. “If anyone has experienced a leak, not only from the cold snap, but on a general basis, they can submit a plumber’s invoice or some other indication of proof that shows the leak was corrected and we in return will cover 100 percent of the water charges from the water portion of their bill,” he said.

However, it will not cover the sewer portion, he said. “We urge any customer who is dealing with any issues with leaks to call us. Don’t be afraid of the big astronomical bill because of the large consumption. Call us, we will protect the account,” said Jackson.

For additional payment options for anyone having a hard time paying their bills Jackson said, “call us at our customer service number (205-244-4000) and speak with our customer service representatives. They are all well versed and eager to help customers with payment arrangements. “

Payment arrangements are offered on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “… [including] payment deferral plans that can be split up between 3, 6, or 12 months,” Jackson said adding, “We don’t want anyone to go without water under any circumstances. We work very hard around the clock to treat our water to make sure our customers have top- tier service. It’s never our goal to turn anyone’s water off.”

For more visit www.bwwb.org or call 205-244-4000.

Electricity

Anthony Cook, communications principal with Alabama Power, said the greatest factor in the amount of your power bill is the amount of electricity used.

Customers are billed at different cycles, so some are already seeing the effects of low temps in January, while others are seeing power usage from the holidays, when some customers were home for more hours and using more electricity. Usage is usually higher in December.

Holiday lights, family gatherings, children at home from school, etc., translate into higher bills. December also saw a few days of higher average temperatures, and a few of the winter cold fronts one would expect. However, most people won’t see the effects of last week’s freezing temperatures on their bills until the end of the month.

“Recent extreme cold temperatures throughout the state have caused customers to use more electricity than they normally would, and in some cases, the results have been higher power bills,” Cook said.

“Customers used much more electricity this month to warm their homes while it was extremely cold outside. In fact, we expect customers will use 25 percent or more electricity this month compared to last January – and that is directly tied to the cold snap.

“The power bills our customers are seeing this month show how much power it took to keep our homes warm when it was 20 degrees outside for several days in a row. In fact, the average low temperature across much of Alabama was well below freezing for the first three weeks of the year,” Cook said.

Alabama Power has several billing assistance programs, including Project Share and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Customers can contact Alabama Power to set up payment arrangements or visit business offices, the website or call Customer Service at 1-800-245-2244.

AL.com contributed to this post.