WASHINGTON, (DC News Now) — People who live in the DMV and the Mid-Atlantic described their shock after finding that their monthly utility bills increased by hundreds of dollars, according to consumer complaints online and two accounts shared with DC News Now.
Letters entitled “IMPORTANT NOTICE,” “ACTION REQUESTED” are being sent to consumers’ mailboxes, encouraging people to switch to renewable energy as the source of their home electricity.
The letters are from CleanChoice Energy, a supplier promising “clean energy for everyone, everywhere,” but the fine print of the authorization forms say: “Your price may vary with no advance notice…,” following a three-month fixed-rate period.
Rachel Louise Snyder, who lives in Northwest D.C., said, “Somewhere somebody is making some money off of this,” adding that she took to her community blog on the Nextdoor app to alert her nieghbors.
“These people have to know that there is something going on,” she told DC News Now Tuesday.
Snyder said she agreed to switch her home’s electric supply from Pepco’s access to the power grid, to CleanChoice Energy in early 2021.
She told DC News Now her monthly statements, which hovered around $200, crept up by hundreds of dollars, and shared bill payments with us.
The several pages of documents range from a May 2021 statement for $183.43 to $934.06 billed this past January.
After discovering the kilowatt per hour rates increased starkly, Snyder called a Pepco representative in January, who explained what she paid.
“And I was like, ‘That is insane,’ and she [the Pepco representative] went through this list of things, like, ‘Do you have a Christmas tree?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, is that why I have $900 bill? Because I have an LED Christmas tree with a timer?'”
Snyder described the exchange as having a “level of comedic absurdity to it. Well, not so comedic.”
One Pennsylvania resident in Pittsburgh told DC News Now that several years progressed before realizing his monthly rates had substantially increased.
According to a billing statement, the man was charged over three times more by CleanChoice for his home’s energy service than the rate established by local utility provider Duquesne Light Company.
The man did not want to be identified until consulting with his attorneys.
A Pepco spokesperson said the utility company is not at fault for hiked prices from CleanChoice, claiming D.C. and Maryland residents are allowed to choose their energy supplier. The spokesperson said, “We print on the bill what suppliers send us, and we deliver this to the customer.”
Consumer complaints submitted to the Better Business Bureau also bemoaned the steeper bills after signing up for CleanChoice’s supply.
In a statement, a CleanChoice spokesperson said the energy supplier “clearly provides information about pricing in all of our communications and marketing.”
However, the fine print of the clean energy authorization form says “prices subject to change after three months, adding, “Your price may vary with no advance notice.”
The representative said, “CleanChoice currently procures our electricity from third parties in the wholesale market. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, wholesale energy prices in the markets that our company procures from have greatly increased.”
Snyder said, “I think it’s absolutely them [CleanChoice] saying, ‘Hey, we can make some money.'”
An engineer with knowledge of the wholesale energy market told DC News Now, while prices for renewables, including wind and solar, are less volatile compared to fossil fuels (which have increased since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), green energy and fossil fuels both are included in the wholesale market and not separated to help determine prices.
CleanChoice added that consumers who have seen steeper bills should expect prices to “return to more normal, but still higher, levels starting this spring.”