Sarah Deats’ electric bill in January was almost triple the charges from the previous month.

She talked to a couple of friends whose bills were double those from December.

Deats is one of many local people who said they noticed a hike in their bills last month from Public Service Company of New Mexico. Her husband reached out to the utility to try to find out why they were billed $725 in January compared to $250 in December for power use in their Santa Fe home, she said.

A PNM employee told Deats’ husband to check their electric meter for the kilowatt-hours used and to call back with the reading. He did so, Deats said, and the employee confirmed the bill seemed accurate.

“We’re a little bit baffled,” she said.

PNM spokeswoman Shannon Jackson didn’t have a clear explanation for the billing increases. The utility hasn’t raised its rates and has no rate case pending before the state Public Regulation Commission, she said. But she noted some of the hikes could be due to power use estimates in previous months that were much lower than the actual usage discovered during an on-site meter reading.

Estimates might be done during severe weather or when crews are short-handed because meter readers are quarantining with COVID-19, Jackson said.

An estimate is based on the electricity consumption for the same month a year earlier, combined with the likely use now, she said, adding the utility is allowed to do estimates for two consecutive months but tries to limit it to just one month.

If an estimate turns out to be too high or too low, the next month’s bill is adjusted for the correction.

People are notified when an estimate is used to determine their charges, Jackson said.

Deats said she and her husband weren’t notified of any billing estimate.

Their January bill from 2020 showed a $425 charge, which was unusually high but much lower than this January, she said.

She is concerned a new meter installed around Christmas might have been defective or might have come with kilowatt-hours already logged.

Jackson said consumers like the Deats can request an energy audit to get a better idea of how their households are using electricity and to receive tips on how to be more energy efficient.

Baseboard heaters will cause bills to rise substantially, Jackson said.

Deats said she’s certain that’s not the cause of her exceptionally high bill, which remains a mystery.

“We’re not doing anything different,” she said.

(3) comments

Khal Spencer

We had the same little surprise in our monthly bill. WTF, PNM?

Ellen MacDonald

I filed a complaint with the NM Public Regulation commission on 1/25 about this very subject and am waiting for my reply. We hired an independent licenses electrician to do a load study, which showed PNM is billing us for 55% more electricity than we are using. Interestingly, that's almost exactly how much our monthly bill has increased from 2019 to 2020 (57%), although we have not changed our usage or added any new appliances. Clearly this is a widespread issue and concern and merits further investigation. Thank you for making the problem public.

Kathy Fish

PNM's transparency and confusing billing is a major problem in the county, too. NextDoor chats reflect that many are baffled by sudden increases on their bills. We saw a sky-high bill a month ago, and when we contacted PNM - with a picture of our meter, which confirmed their incorrect reading - we were told that the amount they'd billed was probably right, and reflected our normal use. It took a few more days for them to inspect the photo of the meter and decide, in fact, that we were right. The assumption that their estimates are always correct, and our concerns aren't rooted in fact or evidence, is part of the issue here.

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