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Cleco Power breaks down reasons for higher bills, offers assistance to customers

(KCBD)
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 4:07 PM CDT
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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) - According to Cleco Power, there are multiple factors contributing to higher than usual bills. However, they say some of the increases are temporary.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

“By early next year, our fuel costs will be lower,” said Shane Hilton, president of Cleco Power. “The higher fuel charges from the February ice storms will roll off of bills in April 2022, and we intend to close Dolet Hills Power Station in Mansfield by the end of the year which will save customers who use 1,000 kWh approximately $9 to $15 per month in fuel costs. These savings will be higher for customers who use more than 1,000 kWh.

“We understand these increases come during the time of the year when customer bills are historically higher because of the hot summer months, but we will work with our customers, large and small, on an individual basis like we always have to assist them in navigating the changes to their bill.”

Cleco attributes the following factors as contributing to higher customer bills: 2020 hurricanes, increases in operating costs & new rate structure, extremely high temperatures and February ice storms & rising fuel costs.

2020 hurricanes

Cleco says three major hurricanes impacted their service territory – Hurricanes Laura, Delta and Zeta. The cost to restore power totaled to $240 million, the largest combined storm expense in the company’s history and larger than Hurricanes Katrina and Rita combined.

The expenses included securing contractor crews from across the country (including their wages, transportation, lodging, etc.), the costs to repair and rebuild damaged systems, including renting specialized equipment, purchasing and replacing poles, transformers, cross arms, wire and more.

The interim storm restoration charge went into effect June 1. The charge will be approximately $2.23 per month for the average residential customer using 1,000 kWh.

Increases in operating costs & new rate structure

Cleco says rates have remained steady since 2014. Prior to 2021, there had been no base rate increase for over seven years.

However, they say changes to rates are necessary to help recover expenses like increases or decreases in operating costs, reliability investments in our power generation facilities, transmission and distribution equipment.

As the costs of other goods and services have risen, the cost of providing electricity also has increased. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Louisiana residential customer electricity bills are among the lowest nationwide. However, consumption by Louisiana customers is above the national average.

Cleco’s new rate structure went into effect July 1.

Extremely high temperatures

Due to Louisiana’s long hot summers and humidity, usage tends to be higher in the summer. From June to September, temperatures are usually above 90 degrees. Higher usage means higher energy and fuel charges.

When temperatures are high, the demand for electricity increases. While rates and other factors contribute to the total bill, Cleco says reducing energy usage can significantly lower a customer’s bill.

For tips on how to reduce your energy usage, click here.

Customers who need help paying their bill can apply for funds from the U.S. Treasury Emergency Assistance Program. The Louisiana state program started in March 2021 and helps renters and landlords impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It was expanded in may to include utility assistance for renters.

Customers can also apply for funds from the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. This is a federally funded program that assists eligible low-income households with their heating and cooling energy costs. A list of all agencies is available on the Louisiana Housing Corporation’s website, here.

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