Days like these we really kick ourselves for going into blogging instead of owning a giant electricity provider. Today the NY Times finds that Con Ed has sent out bills for July that estimate individual electricity consumption much higher than customers expected or even thought possible. Customers like Emilio Rivas, who got slapped with a bill for $430, significantly higher than any he's received, and despite the fact that he was out of town for much of the summer. But don't worry, there's a simply infuriating explanation for this.

After first telling the Times that the utility had estimated higher for July because of the month's “aberrant weather conditions" (and then backtracking when the Times pointed out that this July was actually not as hot as last July), Con Ed blamed their union troubles:

[Con Ed] made an unusual upward adjustment based on the readings they were getting from about one million meters they could read during the lockout. Those meters were on Staten Island, where the company’s workers belong to a union that was not locked out, and in Westchester County and the Bronx, where the company has installed meters that can be read remotely.

When Con Ed checked those meters, “we were seeing a trend line of usage 10 to 15 percent higher than what we anticipated it to be during July,” said Michael Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Ed. The spike in consumption occurred during a period of about seven hot days and utility officials have no explanation for it, he said. So, Con Ed decided to add about 10 percent to its estimate of electricity usage for each of those days for its customers whose meters would not be read.

To be sure, you can try to get your bill readjusted to the correct amount, if you can prove that Con Ed overestimated. Rivas says that after he complained, Con Ed told him he could read the meter himself, but now he has a new problem: he needs his landlord to let him into the meter room.