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Customers protest high heating bills, call on LG&E and city leaders for help

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Liz Pratt Liz Pratt
Rev. Gerome Sutton Rev. Gerome Sutton
Members of the protest group outside LG&E headquarters. Members of the protest group outside LG&E headquarters.
Debbie Belt Debbie Belt

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A colder than usual winter has led to a spike in heating costs for Louisville utility customers. While the increases may be jarring to some, Louisville Gas & Electric officials said it should come as little surprise.

"Since about mid-December, we've been seeing record temperatures here for the region," said Liz Pratt, a spokesperson for LG&E. "In January alone, temperatures were about 35 percent colder than compared to this time last year."

Pratt said those colder temperatures mean furnaces have to work harder to keep households warm. The resulting spike in energy use is then reflected in spiked utility bill totals.

"If you consider how a furnace works in the home: it pulls air from the outdoors, it pulls it into your home and must heat up that air before it circulates it through your home," said Pratt. "So, if you take into consideration the difference between outside and compare that to the temperatures inside, that's a significant difference."

Throughout the metro, utility bills have increased so much Louisville residents, including Reverend Gerome Sutton, spent a portion of Tuesday morning protesting LG&E staff and city leaders help the less fortunate.

"We need to do something for those who are disadvantaged," said Rev. Sutton as he stood surrounded by a handful of supporters gathered outside LG&E headquarters.

"This weather has affected the elderly, those living on fixed incomes, the poor and the working poor, new and small businesses," said Rev. Sutton. "They have exhausted every conceivable means to try to pay the electric bill. They've gone to LIHEAP. They've gone to Sister Visitor. They've gone everywhere they possibly can."

As it turns out, there is still heating assistance available.

"It's limited funding but we have comparable funding as we did last year," said Debbie Belt of Department of Community Services & Revitalization Public Information Specialist. "Last year, we made it through about the middle of March being able to serve people."

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) recipients receive benefits paid directly to their utility service provider; often times LG&W. However, that is not the only assistance being offered.

"We do have a program that's called a "budget payment plan," said Pratt."It takes into consideration customers' past energy usage from the previous year and then it estimates their payments. So this is a program that may be available that customers may have a better idea of what their bill will look like the following month."

At the end of a 12-month cycle on LG&E's Budget Payment Plan, customers having overpaid will receive a credit while those having underpaid will be required to pay their remaining balance.

To learn more about the LIHEAP program, click here. To learn more about the LG&E Budget Payment Plan, click here.

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