Earlier this year, dozens of college students living at Alpine Village in Provo, Utah, were shocked to receive utility bills three times higher than the previous month, KSL reports.
Alpine Village is one of several off-campus housing options for students at Brigham Young University, according to KSL. Residents in the shared units, like Wade Pickett, split their bills with several roommates and are used to a low monthly rate for electricity and gas. “I don’t know how you can go from $40 last month to $123 this month,” Pickett told KSL.
Between the baffled student and his three roommates, the total for the month was $492 — which, according to Pickett, makes no sense, as he and his roommates used no more energy that month than the previous one. “We don’t even have a gas stove,” he said.
KSL investigated the unusually high bill and found that the skyrocketing price of natural gas is the culprit. Most Provo residents receive their gas from Dominion Energy, a company regulated by the Utah Division of Public Utilities. However, Alpine Village is managed by Redstone Residential, which uses a third-party provider for natural gas. While Dominion Energy has safeguards to prevent large price changes, Redstone Residential’s provider pays much closer to the market rate. Most of the time, that’s lower than Dominion’s prices. However, with the war in Ukraine and the spiking demand for natural gas, prices are much higher than usual — and Redstone Residential’s supplier has passed that bill on to the students at Alpine Village.
Jake Jarman, president of Redstone Residential, told KSL, “Residents were charged amounts that they should not have been charged. Those charges have been fixed, and residents will be paying their normal amount for gas charges.” But many other buyers are stuck with climbing natural gas costs. This is part of the reason that other affordable energy sources like wind and solar are becoming more popular, and people across the U.S. are switching from gas appliances to electric.
For those who aren’t quite ready to make the switch, Melanie Hall of the Utah Division of Public Utilities told KSL that customers should read their contracts carefully. According to her, the best way to protect against this kind of surprise is “clear disclosure of an agreement’s terms and diligent review of them by all parties involved.”
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