GREEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Energy companies are warning about soaring heating bills this winter. But some Ohio homeowners are already being hit with sharply higher gas and electric rates, because their third-party supplier contracts – locked in at a low springtime rate – are now ending.
George Makris, trying to save money, always turns off the TV and the lights when no one is around. He was stunned when he received his most recent energy bill at their Green Township home.
"My wife opened the bill, and she said that we have a problem," he said. "This bill is the highest we've ever had."
It was over $800, more than double what they had been paying earlier this year.
"$828 – for one month," Makris said.
Makris first thought there might be something wrong with his central air conditioning or his meter. That's when he discovered his rate had jumped dramatically.
"It went up 63 percent," he said. "Just the electric part."
Why bills are jumping sharply
Makris called the Ohio Public Utility Commission (PUCO) and learned his cheap third-party electric provider was suddenly not so cheap.
"He said, 'What happened is you were on Dynegy, as your provider, and it expired,'" Makris said the PUCO agent told him.
PUCO told Makris he would have been sent a letter – though he does not recall seeing it – stating that his electric rate was going up from 5 cents to well over 7 cents per kilowatt hour at the end of the summer.
The bottom line is that he has to pay the bill.
"At the end of the day, he told me Dynegy did everything by the book," Makris said. "They notified me."
Many third-party electric and gas suppliers are now raising rates sharply as locked-in contracts expire.
Natural gas prices have nearly doubled this year, and if you were enjoying a low rate lock in, you may be in for sticker shock soon.
Make sure you open any letter from your energy supplier. Many people toss these, thinking they are junk mail, which is what Makris may have done.
If you get a letter about a rate hike, check the Ohio PUCO's "Apples to Apples" website: you may find a cheaper plan there. (There is no option for Kentucky residents to switch providers at the current time.)
Makris said he is done with third-party suppliers for now, and is switching back to Duke Energy.
We checked with Duke Energy, where spokeswoman Sally Thelen told us to make sure you understand your contract with a third-party supplier, and make a note of when it ends. That way you can start looking around for a cheaper supplier before you are hit with an $800 energy bill, and you don't waste your money.
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