Casper customers of Rocky Mountain Power said their their most recent bills are much higher than previous months, and the colder weather alone doesn't explain the problem.

"Our usual bill is about $180 or less, so I was expecting an increase just because it has been cold," Karlee von Savoye said.

"So I was expecting about $300, so yesterday I got home and opened my bill and it was $543," Savoye said.

She called Rocky Mountain Power, and company representatives told her it was a usage issue, she said. "But the problem with that is we haven't been home, and our usage issue hasn't changed much."

Von Savoye and her family live on Casper's west side in a 2,400-square-foot, all-electric house with a basement and a second floor, and it is exposed to the wind, she said. But the house is well-insulated and not drafty, she added.

She wondered if this may be a larger problem and started a thread on the Casper Classifieds Facebook page to solicit community comments Tuesday evening, she said. The thread has drawn nearly 300 responses as of Wednesday afternoon, and von Savoye said she doesn't know any of the commenters.

Some of them have contacted Rocky Mountain Power without much luck, von Savoye said. "It sounds like they're trying to push it under the rug, trying to tell everybody what they're using."

"It really feels like a scam," she said. "Any time I talk to somebody about it I bring up the issue of several hundred other people having the same issue and they just kind of don't say anything about it, and then they just move on with 'could it be this?' 'could it be that?'"

The Salt Lake City-based company, a division of PacifiCorp, has been receiving a lot of complaints, too, spokesman Dave Eskelsen said.

"It's something we see seasonally, because when it turns colder, very cold, as it has been particularly in the Casper area, usage goes up, particularly for those who have all-electric homes and that use electric heating," Eskelsen said.

He's seen the comments on the Casper Classifieds Facebook page about bills in the $500 range, he said. "That's about 4,000 kilowatt-hours usage in a month, and for some of these locations that is not unusual."

Eskelsen asked customers with questions to call Rocky Mountain Power's customer service number at (888) 221-7070.

Rocky Mountain Power can review the history of the customers' usage, work with customers to set up payment plans, and offer recommendations about making homes more energy efficient, and cash incentives, he said.

"Give us a call and talk with a customer service representative, we can explore these questions, we can talk about the various payment programs we have."

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Keep in mind that the Wyoming Public Service Commission sets the rates for natural gas, electric and telephone utilities and some commercial water utilities and intrastate pipelines.

While setting rates is complicated, the PSC generally sets rates on monopoly utilities based on the cost to produce power and provide services, its chief counsel Chris Petrie said. The PSC approved Rocky Mountain Power's most recent rates about a year ago.

For the commission to review a problem, it considers number or nature of complaints. The kinds of complaints could be about an individual meter, an isolated error, or a system-wide error, Petrie said, adding he does not recall any system-wide errors on the part of Rocky Mountain Power.

Voicing disapproval about rates in general will not get the attention of the commission, because the rates are already set, he said.

"But if they think there's a problem with their bill, they certainly should call," he said. To file a complaint or ask the PSC about utility rates, call (888) 570-9905.