100,000 LIPA customers switching to monthly billing; can get the option to stay bimonthly

About 100,000 LIPA customers who previously received their electricity bills every two months are switching to monthly bills as the utility transitions to meters capable of electronically sending usage data at least four times a day.

But LIPA, in response to questions from Newsday, said it had “plans to give all existing bi-monthly customers” with smart meters “the choice of notifying PSEG Long Island that they want to remain on bi-monthly billing. , while all others who receive manual meter readings have been migrated to monthly billing.” About one in 11 LIPA customers had semi-monthly bills.

Newsday previously reported that customers who have opted out of smart metering and are paying $11.40 per month for the option have been upset with the utility’s automatic switch to monthly billing and monthly meter readings. One taxpayer, Therese Madonia of Farmingville, told Newsday her latest bill included an inflated fee for meter readings and a line saying the bills were based on an estimate.

“I feel like I’m in a Kafka novel,” Madonia said. “I don’t understand why I was switched” to monthly bills.

LIPA said PSEG, which operates the network under contract, is “surveying” smart meter customers who were receiving bills every two months about “the option of upgrading to monthly billing” while “determining their awareness of the possibility of switching to monthly billing with an actual meter reading”.

LIPA, prior to the deployment of smart meters over the past four years, read customer meters every two months and used estimates based on historical usage to project usage for unread months.

Some customers told Newsday they prefer to receive bills every two months, in part to help with home budgeting. Some say they alternate paying energy and other bills over the course of the year, as charges fluctuate between heating (gas) and electricity (cooling).

“When the bill comes in every month, it’s another drain on your pocket when you get killed with food, gas and oil prices,” said Middle Island shopper and media consultant Larry Mikorenda. . “It’s easier to budget” every two months, he said, arguing that LIPA “just likes to fill its coffers”.

But LIPA said the motivation is not based on a more steady flow of income that accompanies monthly bill payers. “There is no financial impact,” the utility said. “It really is the best way to serve customers.”

Customers who have opted out of smart meters have wondered why they can’t keep their old bi-weekly reading and billing cycle, including some who have historically called their meter readings under a program launched by LIPA to meet customer desires.

“We chose to serve customers with more accurate meter readings thanks to [smart] meters as well as monthly meter readings for those [who] opt out,” LIPA said, noting that 7,646 customers who opted out of smart meters had previously opted into bi-monthly billing.

What about the other 100,000 customers who previously had fortnightly bills and also have smart meters? LIPA said there was “no benefit” for customers with smart meters to receive bi-monthly bills.

“In many cases, a former residence client may have opted for semi-monthly billing and that choice carried over to the new client,” LIPA said.

It is for this reason that LIPA said that PSEG “will go through a process to assess customer preferences”.

Mikorend said he filed a complaint with the state’s Civil Service Department about the move to monthly bills and smart meter reading fees and the agency told him it would investigate. A DPS spokesperson was reviewing the claim at press time.

LIPA said last month that about 14,700 people who are being charged the new 38-cent-a-day meter reading fee are “presumptive” opt-outs, who could not be contacted to determine their preference.