Greenbrier residents have noticed a hike in their utility costs, which Entergy Arkansas said can be attributed to colder temperatures.
"Arkansas saw unusually cold weather at the end of December into January," Ventrell Thompson, manger of regulatory affairs at Entergy Arkansas, said Tuesday.
These colder temperatures call for higher energy levels to keep one's home at a comfortable temperature, she said.
According to the National Weather Service, there were four consecutive days in early January were statewide temperatures never rose above freezing.
"Typically, temperatures would be between 30-50 degrees," Thompson said. "The amount of energy required to heat a home to a comfortable 68 degrees is significantly greater when outside temps are 15, rather than 40."
Thompson said so much energy was being used across the state earlier this month that customers were asked to reduce their electricity usage to alleviate the strain. Entergy Arkansas' power reliability coordinator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, issued a news release Jan. 17 and asked its customers to reduce their electricity usage between 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. Jan. 18 for fear energy consumption would "exceed available generation."
"Customers may remember that January 18, MISO asked Entergy customer[s] to voluntarily conserve electricity," Thompson said. "That's because energy demand across the region was so high because of the widespread cold weather."
Poor insulation could also cause a spike in electric rates.
"Additionally, if a home is not insulated well or energy efficient, then customers are paying to heat air that is going out doors and windows," Thompson said. "Some customers will use space heaters, which use a tremendous amount of electricity."
Many Greenbrier residents have noted a hike in their first 2018 Entergy bills. Multiple threads have been created under the Greenbrier News You Should Know Facebook group's page.
Joy Lynn Kelso, a Greenbrier resident of 30 years, is faced with an electric bill that tops $400.
"When my husband saw our bill, he yelled out, 'What in the world is going on?'" Kelso said. "We have 10 rent homes so for him to say something like this is shocking."
Kelso and her husband, who is an independent contractor, built their home 12 years ago. The couple has never been charged this much for energy in one month until now, she said Tuesday.
She said the two-story brick home she and her husband reside in is "very well insulated." The two are the sole residents at the home.
"It's just the two of us, there's no children coming in and out throughout the day," Kelso said. "We leave our thermostat set on 62 degrees, even when we're not home, and we're gone a lot."
Several Entergy customers have posted to Facebook and noted their January energy bills topped $400 and $500.
Kelso said this trend is alarming.
"There's something going on," she said, noting she has received messages from Entergy customers across the state, even some out-of-state customers,who are faced with the same dilemma.
Kelso said she's concerned for senior citizens and other families living on a fixed income.
"A $200 increase [on their bill] means they have to go without food," she said. "I'm not just concerned for myself; I'm concerned for the little people."
With lower temperatures over the past few weeks, Kelso said she and her husband expected a higher amount on their Entergy bill.
"I expected a $300 bill ... my bill was $418," she said.
Looking at past payment records, Kelso said she paid an average of $173 each month in 2016. Her most recent bill "just doesn't make any sense."
To keep from having random, high electric bills, Thompson said she recommends Entergy customers set up a level billing plan.
"The easiest to do is get on a level billing plan," she said. "This will take the big fluctuations out of monthly bills and allow for better budget management."
Thompson said a long-term fix would be to make the energy-efficient switch, noting Entergy Arkansas offers "a variety of programs that are free to customers that can reduce usage."
Thompson said Entergy customers could also see a nominal rate increase, which took effect with January's bill.
"That increase included the Formula Rate Plan line item customers see on their bill," she said. "This is the mechanism approved by the Arkansas Public Service Commission to adjust rates for fluctuations from year to year in the costs of providing service and investing in upgrades to the electric system."
The increase would not account for doubled or tripled amounts on customers' energy bills.
"However, if customers are seeing higher bills, it's probably not the result of the Formula Rate Plan," Thompson said. "It's likely the result of the Energy Charge (the amount of electricity used based on the meter reading). For a residential customer using 1,000 kWh per month, the current Energy Charge would be $63.92, while the Formula Rate Plan line item would be $6.71."
Kelso said she was unsure of the amounts of several charges applied to her recent bill.
According to her statement, the Energy Charge for her household over the past month was $273.38.