Electric bills to rise for some in Horry County

Published: Aug. 19, 2011 at 12:07 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2011 at 2:39 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - Thousands of people in Horry County will soon be paying more on electricity. Horry Electric Cooperative is increasing a fee and changing rates starting in October.

The news does not sit well with Samantha Hayes, a mother from Loris. She is one of 64,000 people who receives electricity from Horry Electric.

"I mean what else can we do?" she asked. "The bill's already high enough, and it just needs to remain the same."

Horry Electric Cooperative's leadership decided to change rates in April. Joanna Barfield from Conway just heard about the increase in the company's August news magazine to customers, which the company calls members.

"I'm just disappointed," Barfield said. "Everything else is going up. You almost can't afford to go out. You can't afford gas anymore. Now your power's going out of sight."

The company is switching to winter and summer seasonal rates and raising its flat rate facility charge by $7. The increase goes into effect in October, and means customers will shell out $15 dollars per month for the facility charge. However, because the facility charge is included with the electric use charges many customers will not see a full $7 increase in their bills.

An average Horry Electric Cooperative bill is $159.17 a month. Because most of the electric use rates are actually decreasing slightly, that average bill of $159.17 will increase to $161.11 a month in the winter and $165.16 a month in the summer. The overall increase is $1.94 and $5.99 respectively because the lower rates compensate for some of the increase in the facility charge.

That charge helps the company cover costs like maintaining meters, delivering the service to homes and billing.

"That increase is a result of a cost of service study that we did that showed that we weren't collecting that true cost on front the front end," explained company spokesperson Penelope Hinson.

Overall, the average bill will increase 3.1 percent. That includes the facility charge increase and the rate change.

"That's just too much," Hayes said. "It's hard enough. The economy is rough as it is, and for them to be going up on the rate, it's going to make it a lot harder for the people who are trying to survive."

Barfield said she is already making as many cuts as she can. So she is concerned about the coming increase.

"We're already running with hardly any air," Barfield said. "We keep it off at night, and we bought little small units that are energy efficient, and it's still like 200 and some dollars a month."

Hinson said it is possible for people to reduce their electric cost by using less electricity. She said many times even people who have given thought to lowering their usage overlook ways they can cut costs. Some online tools exclusive to electric cooperatives can report usage for a particular home, and the reports point out very specific ways each customer can save.

"It has your billing data, your actual energy use," Hinson said. "You can evaluate your bill and see where your dollars are going."

Hinson printed out her own usage report as an example. The reports shows she keeps her home thermostat set to 74 degrees, a little cooler than the suggested 78 degrees. It shows if she raises that temperature to 78 in the summer she could save $211 a year.

Hinson said the company can help customers with similar reports, and there is also help available for people who have trouble paying a bill on time.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.