Last winter, we heard a story of a family in Vermont burning antique furniture to stay warm. Even before the economy turned decisively south, payment stress was high, and even if we have mild winter (this week is not an encouraging harbinger), more customers will fall behind.
From the Wall Street Journal:
One in five U.S. households was behind on its utility bills coming out of last winter, a new survey concludes, raising fears that the current heating season could be even worse. One in 20 households had its utility service terminated in 2007.
Electric customers who were overdue owed an average of $157 in May 2008, when prohibitions on most wintertime service shutoffs ended, while overdue natural-gas customers owed an average of $360.
Gas companies suffered an increase in losses:
Higher delinquencies hurt utilities as well as consumers. Gas-distribution companies wrote off 4.3% of their revenues in 2007 because customers didn’t pay their bills, the survey found, significantly more than the 2.6% written off in 2005, according to a prior survey by the organization. Electric companies wrote off 1.3% of their revenue in 2007, about the same as in 2005, the survey found.