Monday, August 3

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The energy industry is undergoing rapid change, and technology is paving the way for innovation in the way energy is used, produced, stored and shared. Consumers are interested in green energy alternatives while smart homes and apps make managing energy use and paying your electric bill more convenient than ever.

While the changing energy market has created more options, it has also resulted in utility scams and misleading information. Utility scams are common because of the vast number of utilities that exist, and consumers are understandably anxious with the threat of disruption to their service. Second, new products and services in the energy industry provide an opening for scammers and pop-up companies to provide misleading information or shoddy products and services.

A common phone scam typically begins with a phone number that appears to be from a valid utility company. The scammer will claim you have a past due account and threaten to disconnect service or take legal action. The scammer will typically demand that you use a prepaid debit card or money order — often within a very short, urgent time frame — to pay the “past due” amount.

You can combat this scam by being aware of the status of your account. Never give your banking or personal information over the phone to someone you did not call. If you have a question or concern about your energy bill, call us directly at your local office (see chart above). Do not use the phone number given by the scammer.

Another scam we see from time to time is connected to rooftop solar. Homeowners with rooftop solar may receive sales calls offering accessories, upgrades or extended warranties to solar arrays. Again, if you are not expecting the call, don’t be fooled. These calls offering misleading information are likely scams. Call the company that installed the solar array if you think there may be a problem. Other than occasional cleaning, rooftop solar (if installed correctly) is virtually maintenance-free.

If you’re considering solar for your home, make sure you are working with a reputable company. Because this is still an emerging industry with evolving technology, there has been a proliferation of pop-up companies in the market to make a quick buck. Representatives of rooftop solar companies may have more sales experience than knowledge of the energy industry, and their primary goal could be making a sale and moving on to the next prospect.

If you would like a candid assessment to determine whether rooftop solar is right for you, call me, Michael Russell, at 731-585-0502. I will be glad to help you take an objective view of how to achieve energy and cost savings for your individual needs that may or may not include rooftop solar. You can also visit our website at www.stemc.com/renewables.

In this ever-changing environment, it’s important to remember you have a trusted energy adviser — your local electric cooperative. We are a community-focused organization that works to efficiently deliver affordable, reliable and safe energy to our members.

Remember: We’re just one call or click away, so please reach out with any questions about your electric service or bills. We’re here to help!

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