DENVER — After seeing a smart meter on TV for another Xcel Energy story, Rick Negreann and his wife, Rae, realized they didn't have one on their home.
They're lucky, because their nephew is a 9NEWS reporter.
Smart meters allow Xcel to remotely read your meter. They also allow the company to charge you for your electricity usage based on the time of day that you used it.
Negreann, also known as my Uncle Rick, has no smart meter on his home.
He realized this after seeing another story about an Xcel customer who was without a meter on her home for a short time last summer.
Then, the Negreanns looked at their bills and saw something they had never noticed.
They have been billed for estimated usage, not actual usage, since July.
“After a certain period of time, if people are receiving estimates, they should be directly notified of that fact," Negreann said. "And the individual can move forward paying the exact amount that they should be paying for electricity usage.”
When he called Xcel, Negreann said he was told that the meter block, which is what the meter plugs into, is damaged... and he's responsible for fixing it.
He said the Xcel representative on the phone told him that he was notified about this in December 2021.
“They mentioned that perhaps a notice was put on our doorknob, and it could be that the wind had blown it off,” Negreann said.
A close look at his bill showed that even if something was left on his door in December 2021, he was still paying actual usage. That means the meter was working until July, when it became an estimate.
An Xcel spokeswoman told us that estimated use is calculated by looking at previous use of a similar time period. So, if your meter wasn't working in May of this year, they would look at what your usage was in May of last year and the years before to see if it was consistent before estimating your bill.
Even though my uncle has a nephew in the news, he wants better communication, like the kind companies used to do in the 80s.
“We should have been followed up with," Negreann said. “Written correspondence would be appropriate, either an email or a letter.”
After reaching out to Xcel, a spokeswoman said my uncle's meter block didn't work with their advanced meters.
"As always, our crew attempted to contact him when we discovered the problem, but he wasn’t at home. The crew followed standard procedure and left a door hangar on his door explaining the situation," she said.
Xcel is repairing my uncle's meter block at no cost, but until then, they said they still have to estimate his monthly bill, citing "ongoing international supply chain issues affecting electrical equipment and the backlog associated with this new meter program" for the delay.
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