Growing debt as consumers struggle with increasing utility costs


Customers of Oklahoma’s major utilities who complain about the never-ending cycle of rate hike requests and approvals are not alone.

Many have complained to Oklahoma Corporation Commissioners and in OG&E’s latest request for a rate hike that would raise residential rates by another $19 a month, a long list of consumers opposed the request.

The comments of one Norman customer are not only typical of those who oppose the request, but also represent what is happening across the nation

I am 69. I continue to work to make ends meet. My homeowners insurance for 2024 went up sharply as did my car insurance, even though I drive a totaled 2013 car. It is difficult to find work that pays enough to cover the increases in groceries, meds, etc. I live in Norman and we voted down OGE’s request. Please compare this company’s profits, salaries and bonuses, etc., look me in the eye and tell me I need to be squeezed more by utility companies.”

Bloomberg reported this week that US household utility debt is at a record high as Americans deal with rising heating and cooling costs. According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, in a report released this week, more than one out of every six ratepayers are behind on their energy bills.

The Association said that residential utility debt increased by $2.5 billion to $20.3 billion in 2023. A 20% increase in household heating costs since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic was cited in the report.

The Association represents state-level directors of low-income utility assistance programs. It indicated that the debt could grow even more in 2024 because of a lapse in more federal funding for those programs.