NORFOLK, Va.— Dominion Energy customers are sounding off against higher electric bills and the new smart meters they believe are to blame.
Dominion has installed over 800,000 new smart meters in Virginia since 2009, which provide information about outages and reduce vehicle emission since they can be read remotely. The company completed smart meter deployment for Williamsburg in January and is currently working in Norfolk.
Michelle Huffman’s bill was $140 in December, which she says is typical. She believes her smart meter was installed in January when her bill rose $70.
“I was told I had a smart reader, there was absolutely no way that I could be wrong,” Huffman said she was told by a Dominion representative.
By February, Huffman’s bill rose to $246— 56% more than what she paid two months earlier.
Dominion says it doesn’t believe smart meters are causing increased bills to soar, saying that seasonal conditions are to blame.
“Forty-two percent of your energy bill is a direct result of heating, and with this winter being colder than general, I would say that has a large part in it," said Dominion Energy Communications Specialist Rich Tran.
Dominion says people are also spending more time at home because of the pandemic, thus using more electricity. They also said during the winter months it gets darker sooner, so people are turning on the lights longer.
Huffman isn’t convinced Dominion’s reasons for an increased bill apply to her.
“I’m very hot-natured, so in the winter my heat never goes above 65. I mean never, never, never. Most of the time it’s on 63."
Huffman says she hasn’t spent any time working from home during the pandemic and even sends her laundry out to be cleaned.
She says her recent bill increase correlates to the installation of her smart meter, and she’s not the only one.
Several people vented about the same issue in a Nextdoor thread and on Facebook, including Jonathan Guthrie.
“I did start working from home last spring. I noticed a small increase in my energy usage, but nowhere near the doubling that I experienced in December," Guthrie said.
Guthrie says he doesn’t pay for heat in his apartment and nothing about his lifestyle changed, but his Dominion bill did— going from around $40 to $70 dollars from November to December.
“The reason I correlated it to the smart meter was because that was around the same time that I saw the new meter in person,” he said.
Dominion says it's happy to discuss issues with billing or setting up a payment plan for customers who reach out online or by phone.