As the newly appointed Director of your Electric Utility, I am committed to openness and transparency. On Wednesday, the Record Searchlight published a story concerning Redding Electric Utility billing errors. I would like to set the record straight regarding what happened and how some of our customers were affected. Normally, the utility meters are read each month into handheld devices and then uploaded into the billing system. In instances where the meter reader is unable to read the meters (due to lack of access for example), the usage amount is estimated by the billing system. Then, when the meters are read the following month, the customer is billed for their actual usage minus the estimated usage billed the previous month. This is a common occurrence in the utility industry and happens to a small number of customers every month. Every customer only pays for the electricity and water actually consumed.
Recently, a batch of approximately 1,400 electric and water meter reads were not uploaded timely into the billing system. These 1,400 customers are part of our meter Read Cycle 21 and are mostly in the Country Heights, Wyndham, Radio Lane, Juniper School, and Starlight/Summit neighborhoods. Although we have well trained and competent staff, this highly unusual event was due to human error. Since this summer was the hottest on record here in Redding, the estimates may have been low. The utility bills for August were based on accurate meter reads. Each customer was billed for the actual usage since the last actual meter read, less the estimated usage billed the previous month. For many customers in the affected areas, this resulted in a July bill that was lower than it should have been, followed by a higher bill in August. Again, each customer was only billed for the electricity and water used.
As a reminder, REU offers a variety of payment arrangements. These include an amortization program that allows qualifying customers to have their current utility bill spread out over future months. Because of the hardship this issue has caused, all affected customers will have this option regardless of qualification. Affected customers just need to call our Customer Service Center at 339-7200 and ask. Additionally, REU offers a number of utility assistance programs for income-qualified customers.
REU is your community-owned Electric Utility – that means you are not only one of our customers; you are one of our “owners”. We realize that we should have communicated this promptly at the time it happened. I take ownership for this lack of communication and I am committed to see our communication with customers improve. I understand we must do a better job of communicating these types of issues to our customers – and we will. Your feedback is important to us and your patience is greatly appreciated as we continue to improve. Last year the residents of Redding saved $42 million by owning their own electric utility. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at (530) 339-7350 or email@example.com.
On behalf of the men and women at REU, thank you.
Electric Utility Director