City Light customers complain of 'exorbitant' power bills this winter

Chilly winter weather has a lot of people digging deeper to pay their utility bill.

SEATTLE -- If you've opened your power bill recently, you've likely seen a larger figure than last month.  And if you live in Seattle, chances are it's up quite a bit.

That's because the city hiked rates for residential customers by five percent in January.

On top of that was a 1.5 percent surcharge to help the utility maintain a certain cash reserve because of lower sales on the wholesale market over the summer.

It adds up to a headache for Dani Weiss, whose bill for a two-month cycle was $796.

"A single family home with one person for nearly $800, to me is unbelievably exorbitant," she said.

Weiss lives in a modest 1,300-square-foot home in Rainier Valley.  She uses LED bulbs, takes most of her showers at the gym, and sets the thermostat lower when she's not at home. But she's fighting an uphill battle with her 100-year-old house.

"I think I need insulation; more insulation, you know, but who has a few grand laying around to do that," she said.

And Weiss is among the 20 to 25 percent of City Light customers with an electric heater, much less efficient than gas. And it has been working overtime this winter just to keep up with the colder-than-normal temperatures. According to Johnny Berg at the National Weather Service, from December through February,  the 30-year average temperature in Seattle is 42 degrees. This year it's been just 39 degrees.

"That's the 9th coldest since record keeping began in 1945," he said.

Weiss gets it, but she's still frustrated.

"I can't change the fact that I'm still sitting in here with a sweater on and a blanket and I'm still cold at 67," she said.

For now, she's working with City Light to make monthly payments, and hoping spring arrives sooner rather than later.

Copyright 2017 KING


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