BRANDENBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- Electric bills have increased by hundreds of dollars in Meade County, and residents are looking for answers from their utility provider.

"We've been with them since '98, and I've never seen nothing like this ... Our bill practically doubled,” Mike Prater said.

Prater was hit with a $377 electric bill for the month of December. Many other residents are also experiencing sticker shock.

"We just don't understand why they have been charging us double,” Lisa Rowland said.

Thousands of people have signed an online petition demanding answers from their utility provider, Meade County RECC. 

Customers are sharing their bills online showing dramatic increases month to month. One bill spiked from just over $300 to $640. 

"Some people are having a hard time paying their bills as it is, and when they jump up to $500, $600, that's crazy,” Rowland said. 

Todd Blackburn, Marketing and External Affairs Manager with Meade County RECC, said bills are higher due to higher usage. 

It’s important to note Meade County RECC is a not-for-profit cooperative. It says it has not increased electric rates since 2013, but usage was up 30 percent in December. 

"We did have some days during the month of December that were cold,” Blackburn said. “There were quite a few days below freezing, and heat systems have to work harder during those times." 

The WDRB Weather Team said there was a cold week in early December, but overall, the month was just slightly above average. A warm November could possibly explain the large spike month to month. We were 4.4 degrees above normal.

"Going from a milder month to a little bit colder month, you're going to see an increase in electric usage,” Blackburn said.

However, in January, we were over 6 degrees above normal, and bills were still high. 

Declining bill credits are also a factor. Meade County RECC members save an average of about $240 a year thanks to credits that offset energy costs. 

The Rural Economic Reserve credits usually offset bills by about 20 percent. The credits come from a special reserve fund from Big Rivers Electricity Corp. The funding has diminished over the years, and the company handed out fliers, beginning in the summer, warning customers that they were losing a bill credit that saved about $20 on average per bill. 

"There were 'x' amount of funds that were set aside, and that credit has now diminished if you go down from paying 20 percent of your bill and go down to two percent, you're going to notice,” Blackburn said.

Bill spikes aren’t just happening in Kentucky. Southern Indiana utility providers like Duke Energy are citing December usage increases as a reason for bill spikes as well. 

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