If you live in Berkeley Springs in Morgan County, West Virginia, Potomac Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy, charges you for electricity you don’t use.
Let’s say you have a well that uses 10 kilowatt hours (KWH) per month.
We have such a well with it’s own meter and on an account separate from our house.
And for the electric use of that well, we fall under a rate program (Schedule G) that charges us .10205 per KWH.
In May 2021, we used 11 KWH on that well.
And so, we would pay 11 x .10205.
Which means our bill would be $1.12 for that month.
Except, the rate schedule says that:
The minimum bill per month shall not be less than:
(a) $5.00, or
(b) $2.41 per kilowatt of capacity necessary to serve the Customer.
Okay, we’ll take what’s behind door (a).
Five dollars a month.
No you cannot have what’s behind door (a), Potomac Edison says.
You have to take what’s behind door (b).
Why door (b) and not door (a)? Potomac Edison won’t say.
And what’s behind door (b)?
$2.41 per kilowatt of capacity necessary to serve the Customer.
That’s instead of the .10205 per KWH set out in the first part of Schedule G.
And what exactly is the “capacity necessary to service the Customer”?
The capacity is defined as “the maximum number of kilowatt-hours used in the current month, or in any of the previous 12 months, divided by 120.”
Even though we usually use only 10 KWH or so on that well, in March our KWH shot up to a whopping 1104 KWH.
Holy smokes. 1104?
How did that happen?
Well, as it turns out, there was a leak in our pressure tank. And the well kept pumping and pumping water into the ground.
A friend came over with his backhoe to dig up the tank and and our local plumber replaced the leaking tank with a new pressure tank.
Now we are back down to the usual 10 or 11 KWH per month.
But because our bill shot up to 1104 KWH in March because of the leaking pressure tank, we have got to go through the 12 month calculus set out in Schedule G – approved by the West Virginia Public Service Commission — your tax dollars at work.
1104 divided by 120 equals 9.2.
9.2 times $2.41 is $22.17.
Add additionals and we are up to $22.30.
That’s our electricity bill for the month of March for that well.
And that will be our monthly bill for every month through February 2022.
Because we had a leaky pressure tank.
Remember, if we were just paying for what we used in May – 11 KWH – we would be paying 11 x .10205 of $1.12. (Okay, plus the .03 environmental control charge which bumps it up to $1.15.)
Our bill would be $1.15.
Instead it’s $22.30.
For the next ten months or so we are paying Potomac Edison and extra $21.15 per month.
It took two hours over two days to try and get an answer from Potomac Edison customer service.
And finally I got a supervisor who told me that while he understood the unfairness of the situation, there is nothing the company could do to adjust the calculus so that we could pay only for the electricity we actually use.
Or at least to pay the alternative minimum of $5.
Or as the supervisor put it – “We can’t erase history.”