Entergy responds to resident’s questions about high bills, directs customers to flood desk hotline

Vernon Pierce and Sallie Ranier

Residents returning to their flooded homes and normal routines have been asking why their electric bills have spiked post-Harvey.

Port Neches resident Kirk Hinson didn’t understand why his electric bill jumped from an average of $75 for the last eight months to a whopping $651.70 for the month of October.

He’s not the only one whose bills spiked after Hurricane Harvey.

Kandis Voth, who lives in Silsbee, owes $1,225.60 for October, only $31.54 of which is past due. 

Wendy Brooks, who lives in Bevil Oaks, said Entergy customer service told her that her home’s usage from Aug. 31 to Oct. 2 was estimated, but the power had been off since Aug. 28, when Harvey hit.

“They could not have read the meter on Aug. 31 because everyone was flooded,” Brooks said.

Another Bevil Oaks resident, who asked not to be named because he works in law enforcement, said his home had six-and-a-half feet of water. Entergy pulled the meter at his home due to flood damage, he said.

His first bill after the hurricane was $150, which seemed high to him since his power had been off for two weeks. He is only running a few dehumidifiers and fans to dry out his gutted home, with no air conditioning or regular appliances. His most recent bill was $350.

That’s a problem. But what many Entergy customers may not know is that a subset of customer service representatives — the flood desk — are specially trained to handle these concerns, Entergy spokesperson Kacee Kirschvink told The Examiner in an interview.

“If they feel like they need to have their bill reevaluated, they can call and ask to talk to the flood desk,” she said.

Customers can reach the flood desk through calling 1-800-Entergy, explaining that they have been affected by Hurricane Harvey and asking for a flood desk representative.

“We are taking a second look at their bills,” she said. “If they’ll call and ask for the flood desk, we can have the specialist look into the situation. We empathize with what customers are going through because this has been a historical event,” Kirschvink said, adding that “we will get through this.”

Customers can also visit Entergy.com/flood and click on “why is my bill higher.”

The higher bills could be caused by a number of different factors, Kirschvink explained.

“We have not had a rate change,” she said, adding that rate changes in regulated areas like Southeast Texas have to be approved by the Public Utility Commission. 

Houston, for example, is an unregulated area.

When Entergy is unable to obtain a meter reading due to a natural disaster like Harvey’s flooding, they estimate usage based on previous usage.

“In some cases, they ripped out all their insulation and they’re running dehumidifiers and their air conditioner trying to dry their house out, and those use a lot of power,” she said. “In other cases, we just got a wrong reading [or] our estimate was wrong.”

Other customers weren’t able to receive mail or didn’t make a payment because they had evacuated during the storm, she said.

“You also have to remember that August and September were extremely hot months, more than normal, so everybody’s usage is going to be higher just because of that,” she said.

Locked gates or large dogs also prevent meter readers from doing their job.

“If people have not been able to get an accurate reading of their meter, they really need to call us to let us know that they’re having access issues,” she said. “If our meter readers cannot go and read the meter, the problem is just going to perpetuate itself until we can go and get an accurate reading.”

When a bill is adjusted due to lower use than estimated, the customer receives a credit, Kirschvink said.

“There’s just so many variables [in] these high bills.”

Locals have also asked if the cost to restore power after Harvey is being added to their bill. Part of Beaumont off North Major Drive was without power for 10 days due to a flooded substation.

Storm surcharges, also known as “riders,” have to be approved by the Public Service Commision, Kirschvink explained, but take some time to appear. Hurricane Rita made landfall in September 2005, but Rita surcharges weren’t added to customers’ bills until Dec. 1, 2006.

Southeast Texans won’t know what their additional cost will be for Harvey until the cost is determined by Entergy and presented to the Public Service Commission, according to Kirschvink.

 

“Harvey is still an ongoing storm,” she said, explaining that they don’t yet have an estimated cost for damages. “Right now, there’s nothing filed.”

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