Friday, February 8, 2008

My first electric bill in Puerto Rico

Today I received my first electric bill here... and it is a horror story!

I looked at the amount first $60.25.

Hmm, I thought, seems a bit hig, considering that I do not have a/c, rarely use a fan (sea breeze does the job most of the time at least for now), don't cook and installed my new TV only a week ago. I do shower regularly, though, and do laundry about once a week - both washing and drying.

'Is it normal? ' I asked a couple of coworkers. 'No', they shook their heads 'it seems high'.

So I looked at the bill for more detail. First I noticed "dias de consumo" - 10.

What? I am being charged $60.25 for 10 days of very light electricity use??? It's a highway robbery! My coworkers agreed - a highway robbery. None of them pays so much for a month, much less for 10 days and they assume they use more energy than I do!

So I started to study the bill even more in detail: "compra de energia" - purchase of energy (256 kWh x 0.040909 $/kWh) - $ 10.47 + three different 'cargos' (fees, I presume) at respectively $1, $6.18 and $5.67 and finally 'compra de combustible' $36.93!

What on earth is the 'combustible' I am being charged so much for? And why am being charged for it?

Mysterious - I need to talk to my landlord, who should be able to understand that.

As for the 256 kWh - my guess is that the meter has not been read even before the previous tenants - who left unpaid energy bills for $570 - moved out. My landlord read the meter when I moved in - I did not - my bad. I don't even know where it is. I need to check it now and wait for the second bill to see how much I am actually paying for my own energy use... unless someone somehow gets his energy on my meter, but I have no idea how to check for that - other than, perhaps, turn everything off and check if the meter is running or not. Is that how it is done? Or does someone have a better idea?

Oh, brother, the pleasures of living in a society known for its, hmm, inventiveness (?) in avoiding high costs of living here, especially during recession. But whom might I be involuntarily sponsoring - if I am? Former tenants or a current energy thief?
P.S. My second electric bill was still high, but much more acceptable: $ 84 ( apparently the average of what former tenants were supposed to pay monthly) for 32 days of - still rather light - use. Which means in the first one I must have been charged for some of the previous tenants unpaid electricity use. Oh, well.
And having now lived in Puerto Rico for well over a year, I must add that it was by far the highest electric bill in PR. In my current condo, even when I was using air conditioning during the fall, when it was hot and humid inside, my bills averaged around $50 a month. Electric bills in the mountains were lower still.


Blue said...

I'm trying now to begin my investigation of places I would enjoy retiring to, knowing that I lost 25% of my portfolio in 2008-2009. Put bluntly, does one's dollar go farther in PR than in, say, Kansas, where I currently live. I want to retire in 5 years. thanks if you can give a reply! god bless!

Minerva said...

I am sorry, Blue, but I can't answer that question for several reasons: I do not know how far a dollar goes in Kansas and I do not know how do you spend your dollars: some things in PR are more expensive than in the USA - like, for example, vegetables, dairy products - some are cheaper, like housing (which also is of lower quality) and health care.

I did not move to PR to lower my cost of living, but to have an adventure, so I was not trying to be frugal or even careful about spending, but I did spent differently in PR than I do in the USA: cultural entertainment is practically nonexistent in PR, so there was no expense for theatre, opera, symphony. But my car expenses were higher than they ever were in the USA.

In PR I spent more time outdoors, swimming, snorkeling, walking on the beach, etc. - all of it practically free, except snorkeling from boats, here I spent more time socializing with friends, eating out etc.

dac683 said...

I'm having the same problem here in puerto Rico! I just moved here on May 1st to Mayaguez. My first electric bill, for only 5 days of usage, was $79 total! My next bill, for 30 days of usage, is $539!!! I almost had a heart attack! I am going down to the electric company today to fight this, because there is just no possible way. Yes I use the AC I'm only one room at a time, but it still shouldn't be THAT expensive!

Anonymous said...


I am having similar problems with the bill here in Puerto Rico. We just moved here ourselves and I am paying the bills for my brother. His last bill was $410.15 before we moved here for him alone! This time it was $358.71. I called my brother in panic asking about the bill.It states Tarifa basica (Basic Fee) $60.55. Compra de energia is $45.65 thats the electric usage bill. Then the mysterious Compra de combustible $252.51 he told me was the new Fortuno (Gov) thing he started which is the "oil fee people have to start paying" that pumps the electricity to your home!! He spoke to them directly.

I almost passed out, What?? I was very dissapointed that people from Puerto Rico were being abused like this! including us. I am disable and live on small resources. So let me do the math now I pay $313.06 for the basic fees and oil for them to give me service to pay my $45.65 bill??? This is just horrible with a capital H. I understand how dac683 feels, we came out here to live a more afforable life because the landlord was selling his house so we had no choice but to come here where my parents are also only two years. They also got "combustible fee" for $199!! I am so, so shock. My brother told the electric people I am not paying that it's ridiculous and she told him come in we can explain everything.

Something is just not right. That Furtuno gov. or whoever he is does not have the best interest in the people of Puerto Rico, Shame on him and those that approved this. I never heard of such a thing where you pay oil to pump your electricity to your home, its horrible. No wonder I heard a lady on the radio during the lights out (hurricane Irene) say when it starts to get evening regardless,"I turn a candle on and place it in a large can in my bathtub because of the new "law". The radio host told her she could do something and she said, "no, you don't understand, I can't afford to pay that bill" and thats what I have been doing for a long time". My heart ache for her and now I ache. Wonder if Obama knows..well he will!! I will be praying that someone does something, they need to investigate why your fees are higher then your actual light bill. I better start buying candles too. I already started uplugging the electric stove,microwave, tvs when not in use, and use a night light in two parts at night one for the bathroom and kitchen because now I understand. Shame on you fortuno, and much thanks Minerva for sharing this post I stumble into your blog looking for answers & the aeepr,com website doesn't even explain how to read your bill. Good luck to all, any tip on what to do? Maybe a petition started? I am for the people of P.R and for resonable fee not paying your oil to give me service, does that sound right to anyone?

Minerva said...

Actually only my first electric bill in PR was relatively high: all others were "normal" according to my PR friends. And this "compra de combustibles" fee was in effect before Fortuno was elected governor. And it has never been high on my bills. I learned later that the people who lived in the apartment before me run over $ 500 of an unpaid electricity bill and the electric authority usually tries to recoup unpaid bills by tucking them on new tenants month by month - or perhaps sometimes all at once. Worth fighting it.

Anonymous said...

hear is the deal, and i really hope that all of you are reading this. there is this law (ley 33) which claims that in every bill, every position has to be explained in detail. many ppl i know went to the eclectricity place and wanted that combustible thing explained. well, they can not. at least not as it is required by the ley 33. which means this combustible charge is illegal and YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY IT. the rest of the bill you do have to pay.
what you have to do is, go every month with your bill (IT CAN NOT BE DUE) to the electricity place and have a paper ready where you refuse to pay the combustible because of the law 33. have that letter saved up in your computer and use the same form everytime you go to pay the bill. you will have no trouble at all. i will post tomorrow some links (but they are in spanish) were everything is explained. my english is not the best but i hope you will understand.

dac683 said...

I am very interested in the last post about Ley 33. Please post more detailed information about this. I am sure we will ALL take advantage of it. PLEASE!! or e-mail me directly at

dac683 said...

To the "Anonymous" person who posted the last thing about Ley 33, PLEASE post more detailed info on how to exactly do this. Please!!!

Anonymous said...

here some links to check out :!/pages/Todo-Puerto-Rico-en-contra-del-abuso-de-la-AEE/281254981889863

scroll throughout the page, you will find a lot of videos and explanations there.

i did it just as explained last week. i did not pay the combustible. there was no trouble at all. remember to safe your case number which is going to be given to you. if you don't understand spanish (all this links are in spanish) i am happy to help.