Electric customers questioning higher bills
Volunteer Energy Cooperative (VEC) is receiving an unprecedented number of letters, calls, and emails from customers who have noticed a significant increase in their monthly electric bill according to Patty Hurley, VEC vice president for Marketing and Economic Development.
“Several factors have come together over the past month or two to affect bills,” Hurley said. “It’s not really just one thing, but a few things hitting all at once that account for the increases.”
TVA announced a rate increase and a significant jump in the Fuel Cost Adjustment (FCA) charge in October. The impact of those were felt dramatically when an unseasonably cold November swept through much of the Tennessee Valley, Hurley said.
The Fuel Cost Adjustment is set by TVA each quarter and is based on the cost of fuels used to generate electricity – mostly coal and natural gas – not the price of gasoline as many assume, Hurley said. She added that TVA has announced a reduction is this charge that will begin in January.
VEC President/CEO Rody Blevins said VEC does not receive any additional revenue from either of these increases.
“VEC is a not-for-profit consumer-owned cooperative,” Blevins said. “What that boils down to is that we don’t have profits that we can dip into to absorb these additional costs. We have no choice except to pass them along to our customers.”
Hurley added that many of the customers contacting VEC are questioning several line items on their VEC bills. Hurley said other electric utilities charge for the same items but do not list break them out into line items the way VEC does.
Energy Charge: this section of the bill is the price paid for electricity used measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Hurley said 80 cents of every dollar collected through this charge goes directly to TVA to purchase power.
Customer Charge: The price you pay for energy is only part of the cost of operating an electric system. It is necessary to add a customer charge to pay not only for meters and meter reading, but also for right-of-way clearing, system maintenance, billing, and other costs involved in bringing power to your home.
TVA Fuel Cost Adjustment: This is a charge that offsets the additional cost that TVA pays for fuel used to generate power above what was budgeted.
Hurley said VEC also has several programs designed to help customers use electricity more efficiently and to conserve electricity to help them save money on their electric bill.
Those programs include a do-it-yourself home energy audit that provides some customized energy saving tips for your home when you complete the online or paper audit. For a limited time, participants in this program also receive a free conservation kit.
VEC provides information on energy and money saving tips at their website, www.vec.org and monthly customer newsletter. VEC also participates in financing programs to help customers update their heating and cooling equipment to more energy efficient models.
Hurley said VEC also works very hard as an advocate for the customers with TVA and state and federal legislators so that costs can be held as steady as possible.
“It is especially important that our customers, as purchasers of public power, make their voices heard to their elected officials regarding the burden of high energy costs and their effect on customers,” Hurley said. “In the coming months we expect that there will be much discussion regarding strategies to cope with climate change. Some of the solutions that will be proposed will include strategies that will lead to a dramatic increase in the cost of power.
We want to encourage you to visit www.ourenergy.coop and learn how to make your voice heard.”