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Utility Company Can't Read Meter and Sends us "Estimated" Bills

Utility Company Can't Read Meter and Sends us "Estimated" Bills

Summary: Two out of three last bills have been estimated, because utility cannot read the meter, and the utility company will not say when the issue will be fixed.

Discussion: Our Tesla PV/Powerwall system went online in May. Part of the startup involved our utility company (APS) installing a new meter. The first bill was a combination of pre- and post- PV operation. The second bill indicated that the meter could not be read (remotely), and that the bill was an estimate. A day later, we received a new bill, presumably corrected, since the bill was for a different amount and did not mention issues with meter reading. We paid the second bill. Recently, we received our third bill, for the following period, and again, the bill is an estimate, because APS could not read the meter.
We spoke with APS, who, at the time, was able to read the meter and indicated that our most recent estimated billing was overcharging us. But don't worry, we were told, since the data in the meter is accurate, and eventually, the meter will be read and our subsequent bill at that time will reflect an adjustment. Naturally, my concern is that estimation errors will accumulate, and we could be faced owing an huge adjustment. Besides, billings should be accurate.
When pressed further, APS admitted that this was a problem with many of their solar customers. Evidently, "the computer" reads the meter only at specific times, and these operations are often not successful. Being technically savvy, I interpret this to mean that their billing task polls the meters remotely, and this operation is not reliable. APS explained that the meters could be successfully read remotely via a manual operation. I asked if we could obtain a corrected bill based on a manual remote access of our meter. I was told that this request would be passed up the line but was unlikely to be granted, and we would likely continue to receive "estimated" bills until the issue was resolved. APS had no idea when this would be resolved.
I appreciate that candor of the person with whom we spoke. Our bill payment is due in just a few days, and our deadline was extended due to this issue, since we don't want to pay inaccurate bills. However, from other sources, I have learned that APS has had many complaints about additional deposits of hundreds of dollars being demanded from customers due to late payments of which the customers allege they are not aware. Maybe this is sour grapes on the customers' part, but even though our deadline has been extended, the right hand may not know what the left one is doing, and I don't want to risk such a late fee and its complicated resolution, or worse yet, service cutoff, so I'll probably pay the bogus bill by the due date on the bill. Any practical advice?

mcdonalk | 23. September 2018

Based on some excellent advice on another forum, I looked up and downloaded our PUC "Arizona Administrative Code." According to that lengthy document, the utility company can provide estimated bills under the following (summarized) conditions: a) extreme weather conditions" prevent meter readings, b) failure of customer to read own equipment when the customer is to provide readings, c) utility is unable to obtain access to customer premises to perform the read due to locked gate, etc., d) "customer equipment failures" prevent reading; we have been assured by APS that our equipment is operational, and that they are able to access it via a remote manual read operation, and e) "to facilitate timely billing for customers using load profiles." From my interpretation, our situation is not addressed by these conditions, and APS should have performed a manual reading if their software process cannot access the meter. There is nothing wrong with our meter, and full access to the meter by APS is available.
I can, of course, and will probably, bring this to their attention and likely elevate the issue, but I'll probably pay the estimate bill by the deadline to avoid bureaucratic complications.

mcdonalk | 23. September 2018

Based on some excellent advice on another forum, I looked up and downloaded our PUC "Arizona Administrative Code." According to that lengthy document, the utility company can provide estimated bills under the following (summarized) conditions: a) extreme weather conditions" prevent meter readings, b) failure of customer to read own equipment when the customer is to provide readings, c) utility is unable to obtain access to customer premises to perform the read due to locked gate, etc., d) "customer equipment failures" prevent reading; we have been assured by APS that our equipment is operational, and that they are able to access it via a remote manual read operation, and e) "to facilitate timely billing for customers using load profiles." From my interpretation, our situation is not addressed by these conditions, and APS should have performed a manual reading if their software process cannot access the meter. There is nothing wrong with our meter, and full access to the meter by APS is available.
I can, of course, and will probably, bring this to their attention and likely elevate the issue, but I'll probably pay the estimate bill by the deadline to avoid bureaucratic complications.