Residents could suffer a power outage
A few more Janesville families are in danger of getting their power shut off April 15 than at this time last year.
But the amount of money they owe is less than last year.
Wisconsin law prohibits power companies from shutting off power to customers between Nov. 1 and April 15 even if customers have not paid their bills.
As of the end of March, about 15 more Janesville customers were 60 or more days behind on paying their Alliant Energy bills than last year at this time, spokesman Steve Schultz said.
The 4,806 customers together owe $2 million, he said.
Last year, fewer customers owed a total of $2.1 million, he said.
Most of that can be attributed to lower energy bills this year, Schultz said.
The average customer’s natural gas bill was $150 lower this season than last, Schultz said.
Janesville customers apparently have been working to pay their bills before the heating moratorium ends April 15.
At the end of February, 5,020 Janesville customers were in arrears, Schultz said. Together, they owed $1.7 million. Alliant had 89 more customers behind in their bills than in February 2009, but the total bill was $135,000 less, Schultz said.
Across Rock County, 124 fewer Alliant customers are in arrears this year compared to last year. The 8,267 customers owe $3.6 million compared to a $4 million outstanding bill at this time last year.
Alliant Energy services all of Rock County and the southern part of Walworth County as well as La Fayette, Iowa, Dane, Sauk and Columbia counties.
We Energies services the northern part of Walworth County. That company doesn’t separate its billing data by county, spokeswoman Irissol Arce said.
But the company predicts it will cut power to 57,000 customers in Wisconsin and Michigan, Arce said.
That’s about the same number of customers predicted last year, she said. However, last year the company shut off fewer customers than predicted, she said.
We Energies serves 2.1 million customers in Wisconsin and 28,500 in Michigan.
Schultz and Arce urged customers who are behind on their bills to call the companies’ customer-service centers. Workers can set up payment plans or make arrangements, they said.
Some families might be qualified for help through the Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program.
“We really are encouraging customers to call and find out if they are qualified,” Arce said. “There have been changes in the guidelines for energy assistance that have made a significant number of families eligible. Just because they weren’t eligible last year doesn’t mean they are now.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Wisconsin law prevents energy companies to shut off power from Nov. 1 to April 15, even if the customers’ bills are past due. Alliant Energy supplies power to families in Rock County and the southern half of Walworth County. Thousands of those customers could lose power if they don’t make arrangements in the next week.
The number of Alliant Energy customers state-wide whose bills are more than 60 days in arrears as of March 31:
This year—39,175 customers owe $13.5 million
Last year—39,485 customers owed $14.2 million
In Rock County:
This year—8,267 customers owe $3.6 million
Last year—8,390 customers owed $4 million
This year—4,806 customers owe $2 million
Last year—4,791 customers owed $2.1 million
In Walworth County:
This year—3,155 customers owe $869,000
Last year—3,110 customers owed $794,000
Across the state, thousands have not paid any money toward their bills since the moratorium started:
This year—7,625 customers owe $6.2 million
Last year—6,995 customers owed $6.1 million
Of the 634,000 Alliant Energy customers in Wisconsin, 6.1 percent are more than 60 days behind on their bills and 1.2 percent have paid nothing during the moratorium.
To learn more
If your energy bill is more than 60 days in arrears, you still have time to make arrangements before the April 15 cutoff day. Spokespeople for Alliant Energy and We Energies urge you to call the companies’ customer service departments to set up payment plans.
“As long as they make contact with us, we get them on a payment plan and they’re making a good-faith effort, we won’t shut people off,” said Steve Schultz with Alliant Energy.
You might qualify for energy-assistance payments, which are available until May 15. Call 1-866-432-8947 or visit homeenergyplus.wi.gov.
Alliant and We Energy spokespeople urged residents to call as soon as possible.