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Winter weather not sole reason for higher utility bills in 2023

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hoosiers experienced sticker shock when opening up utility bills in January.

Utility companies told I-Team 8 that weather played a role in the high bills, but it wasn’t the only reason.

“Frankly, heat just goes right out the window,” said utility customer David Elscer, who told I-Team 8 he knew his family would be feeling the financial hit of the cold snap around Christmastime.

“It’s difficult. It takes extra budgeting and all sorts of stuff that we previously didn’t account for,” Elscer said.

Storm Track 8 meteorologists compared temperatures from December 2021 and December 2022. In 2021, Indiana saw temperatures 8.8 degrees above normal for the entire month, and the lowest mark the thermometer hit was 17 degrees. In 2022, Indiana saw temps right on average, but there was a four-day stretch of frigid temps and snow around Dec. 25.

AES, Citizens Energy Group and Duke Energy told I-Team 8 that storms caused an increase in usage for customers. That led to higher bills, but the hurt of those higher bills was compounded by the increase in the cost of energy in general.

We compared utility bills from December 2021 and December 2022 for three of the largest providers in Indiana:

  • Citizens Energy Group customers saw an average increase of 43%.
  • Duke Energy customers saw an increase of 29%.
  • AES customers saw an increase of 19%.

Angeline Protogere, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, said, “During 2022, we saw the highest sustained prices for fuel that we have seen in a decade, and this is due to global demand. Those costs are pass-through costs. We do not earn a profit on them, and they both rise and fall, and state energy regulators have to review and approve any adjustments.”

Elscer told I-Team 8 that he’s fortunate his family can absorb the higher cost. “Ultimately we’ll be able to make ends meet, but that money could be used for other discretionary expenses somewhere else.”

Representatives of Duke Energy, AES, and Citizens Energy Group also told I-Team 8 they’re seeing stabilization in the energy market, which could lead to decreased energy costs if state regulators approve decreases.

Customers won’t see any decreases until spring because energy is bought on a quarterly basis.

Utility customer Elscer said, “Ideally, if we can get some help on the horizon, that’d be awesome. Put a couple extra bucks in our pocket. I think that’d be really beneficial.”

Representatives of the utilities that I-Team 8 spoke said they have financial assistance available for customers who can’t handle the hit from their higher bill in January. Call energy providers to see what type of assistance is available.