Smart meters not to blame for higher bills, Dominion Energy says

'The bill went up $110 and change in one month'
Brendan King and Paul Patton.
Posted at 5:57 PM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-27 17:40:41-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Paul Patton and his wife live in North Chesterfield on a fixed income.

Any changes with their bills do not go unnoticed.

“My income hasn’t changed, but everything is going up and up and up except my salary,” Patton explained.

Patton reached out to the CBS 6 Problem Solvers after receiving higher than normal electricity bills from Dominion Energy.

He said after living at his home for more than 50 years, he received his highest energy bill ever most recently at $320.41.

“Then I got to checking with my other neighbors around here and their light bill went up too,” Patton recalled. “After they change the meter, the bill went up $110 and change in one month.”

Brendan King and Paul Patton.
Brendan King and Paul Patton.

Electric crews installed a smart meter on his home on December 29.

Dominion Energy spokesperson Enrique Diaz said there are several factors that may have led to higher bills compared to previous years.

Average temperature in Richmond for January 2020 was 52 degrees. That’s four degrees higher than the average temperature in January 2021.

Richmond saw an even more pronounced difference in temperatures during the month of February. The average temperature in February in 2020 was 54 degrees. This year, the daily temperature was, on average, about nine degrees lower.

More than 40 percent of electricity use is for heating or cooling, according to Dominion Energy.

“We are seeing temperatures that are abnormal for the year and this is something we are seeing across the country,” Diaz stated.

Smart Electric Meter
Smart Electric Meter

More families are also staying home and using more electricity during the pandemic, according to the utility.

The company began installing the smart meters in 2009. Currently, there are 750,000 smart meters on homes and businesses in Virginia and North Carolina.

“The technology has advanced to something we know now will service us better,” Diaz explained.

He said the new meters measure electricity use the same way as the older models did, but they come with more tools. Electric crews can check energy usage remotely and it’s tracked by the hour.

The smart meters also alert the energy company during power outages.

Diaz urged customers who have concerns about their energy usage to call 211 and ask for the utility’s Home Energy Assessment. Dominion Energy will pay a contractor to evaluate your home for ways to save energy, at no cost to you.

“They’ll help with insulating with certain heat pipes, replacing shower heads, and they may seem like small changes but replacing all the incandescent bulbs in the house will help,” Diaz stated.

Dominion also offers payment plans and other financial services for their customers.

Meanwhile, Patton said he ensures his family doesn’t use more energy than they must. He switched his water to be heated by gas and hopes lower bills follow rising temperatures.

“I can’t afford it, so what am I going to do? How am I going to live if I’m paying these outrageous energy bills,” he asked.