Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Who regulates public utility companies?
The Oklahoma Corporation Commission is responsible for licensing and regulating electric power utilities, natural gas utilities, drinking water utilities, and telecommunications utilities.
How does my utility decide what to charge me?
Most companies doing business in Oklahoma can simply set their own prices to sell their products and services. However, regulated utilities, like OG&E, PSO and ONG, are different. The prices regulated utilities charge to provide customers with electricity or natural gas are decided through an open, public process called a rate case. When a pricing adjustment is needed, the utility company files a request with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the body that regulates public utilities. The request is considered in a rate case, which offers a public forum to examine and discuss the request. Rate cases seek to balance the needs of customers and the utility with public policy goals. Reasonable costs for utility service are defined, and the amount of money the utility company will collect through rates to provide that service in a safe and reliable manner is determined.
In contrast, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission does not regulate the rates that telecommunications providers charge their customers for services. The Commission has limited regulatory oversight of telecommunications providers in Oklahoma, allowing it to oversee quality of service issues, the Oklahoma Universal Service Fund, and applications for new telecommunications carriers that wish to offer certain services within the State.
How can I lower my utility bills?
Here are some tips that might help you save on your utility bills:
- Home energy audits pinpoint what parts of your home's heating and cooling system and building structure are inefficient. They also help you determine what upgrades to your home will help you save the most energy and have the fastest payback period.
- You may save on your heating and cooling bills by simply turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 percent for 8 hours. You can do this automatically by installing an automatic setback or programmable thermostat.
- Installing energy efficient lighting may be one of the fastest ways to cut your energy bills. An average household dedicates 5 percent of its energy budget to lighting. Using new lighting technologies within the 5 most used light fixtures in your home may reduce electric bills by $75 a year according to the Department of Energy. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), light emitting diodes (LEDs) and outdoor solar lighting may all contribute to lower energy bills.
- EnergyStar appliances may cut energy bills by 20 percent or more depending on which appliances you purchase.
- Incentives, rebates or tax credits may be available from your utility when purchasing energy-efficient appliances or lighting, or when making other energy efficient upgrades to your home. See below for links to other websites offering additional information, or contact your utility to inquire about these offerings.
- If not replacing appliances, you may maximize energy savings by using current appliances more efficiently. Run the dishwasher only when it is fully loaded and turn the heated drying selection off. Clean the coils on the back of the refrigerator and make sure the door seals are airtight.
- Turn off your computer or use the “sleep” mode when not in use. Reduce “phantom” energy loads by unplugging home office appliances or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance. Unplug battery and mobile device chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.
Tips to help lower consumer water bills:
- Make sure your home is free of water leaks. Many homes have hidden water leaks. Read your water meter before and after a two-hour period when water is not being used. If the dials are moving, or the meter does not have the same reading both times, there may be a leak.
- Repair dripping faucets. Ten percent of homes have leaks that waste ninety gallons or more a day. Larger leaks can waste hundreds of gallons of water. Fix a Leak Week
- Retrofit all household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors to slow the flow of water. Some utilities offer these aerators for free or have a rebate for this type of conservation measure. To learn more, see links below and contact your local utility company.
- Don't pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it, such as watering plants.
- When purchasing a new water softener, look for one fitted with a hardness sensor that automatically triggers regeneration, thus reducing water and salt usage.
- When purchasing a new washing machine, look for one that can be adjusted for size of the load, and that offers several wash and rinse cycles. This will allow you to optimize its use, thus saving water and energy.
- If your clothes washer cannot be adjusted for the size of the load, then operate it only when fully loaded.
- Check your swimming pool and your hot tub for leaks.
- When not in use, cover your swimming pool or hot tub to reduce evaporation. If left uncovered, a residential swimming pool will lose about a 1/4 of an inch of water a day, or 2 inches per week, due to evaporation, leading to anywhere between 10,000-20,000 gallons of water loss a year. Additionally, using a cover decreases heating costs by 50-70 percent.
- If you have a well, check to see if the pump cycles on and off even when water is not being used. If it does, you may have a leak.
Are there ways I can avoid drastic and unpredictable changes in my utility bills from month to month?
Level or flat billing options allow you to spread the cost of utility bills throughout the year. Instead of high bills during summer and winter months, that usage will be “leveled” so that bills are consistent throughout the year. Be careful to read your plan's details. During some months, bills will be higher than with standard billing. See below for links to other websites offering additional information, or contact your utilities to inquire about the billing options they offer.
How can I avoid service interruptions or service disconnections?
Here is some information regarding interruptions and disconnections to utility service:
- If a resident of your household has a serious medical condition and disconnecting utility service would risk his or her health, you may be able to temporarily avoid cut-off by submitting a physician’s certificate.
- Electric and gas utilities may not suspend residential service in certain extreme weather conditions.
- If you are elderly or handicapped, registering with the utility may restrict the utility’s ability to cut off your service, including during extreme weather.
- Contact your utility and discuss a payment plan. However, if you sign up for a payment plan, you must be able to follow it or you may incur additional charges. See below for links to other websites offering additional information.
Are there any assistance programs to help low-income customers?
Yes, but you must contact your utility to inquire about its specific assistance programs, if any. The links below will take you to the OG&E, ONG and PSO websites, which contain information about programs for their low-income customers. Also included are links to the U.S. Department of Energy's consumer resource on saving energy and using renewable energy technologies at home, and an additional government website to assist you in finding out which government benefits you may be eligible to receive. Finally, programs to assist low-income customers with their telephone bills also exist. One of the links below provides basic information about the program, often referred to as “Lifeline,” including eligibility requirements and a list of providers.
Who do I contact if I have a question or complaint about my utility services?
For questions about your services, first contact your utility service provider. If your questions relate to the rules with which your service provider must comply, contact the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. If you wish to file a complaint about your services or provider, you may do so with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office by completing our Consumer Complaint Form either online or by sending it to us once downloaded and completed.
Where can I find additional information on utility issues and regulation in Oklahoma?