State

MID, TID bill big? There's a reason

Electricity customers could see especially high power bills this summer, and it's not just because they cranked up the air conditioning.

The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts have implemented rate increases approved months ago. That's on top of their usual switch to higher rates for the warmest part of each year.

MID also reports that its installation of "smart" meters could contribute to the spikes.

"It is possible that several of these things converge on a person's electricity bill at the same time," MID spokeswoman Kate Hora said.

The Bee had inquiries from a few affected customers and got these answers from the districts:

Rate increases: TID's residential rate rose 13 percent as of Feb. 1. MID homes got hit with increases of 7 percent in January and 2 percent in June, reduced from a planned 6.5 percent. A 5.4 percent hike comes in September.

Summer rates: Every year, both districts shift to higher rates to account for the high cost of peak power. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has moved into its summer rates as well but has not had a major increase this year.

Weather: This summer has had plenty of days with high temperatures in the 80s, meaning less need for air conditioning, but there have been some scorchers, too.

"Combine the summer billing months with warm weather, people using air conditioners, etc., and their bills could be a lot higher," TID spokeswoman Michelle Reimers said.

Hora said MID staggers its billings, meaning some go out the first of the month and others later. Customers are billed for different blocks of days, and some might have a lot of hot days in those blocks.

Meters: Both districts are installing meters that can be read remotely, which will eliminate meter readers on foot. In some cases, Hora said, old meters were not recording accurately.

She also said some MID customers are getting new meters in the middle of the 31-day billing cycle, so their first bill after that could cover as many as 40 days. That's a 33 percent spike over normal consumption.

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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