August 25, 2013 11:31:21 AM
Nathan Gregory - [email protected]
Expect the light bill to go up.
On Thursday, Tennessee Valley Authority announced a 1.5 percent base rate increase. Officials with the company said the increase will likely mean about an extra $18 a year coming out of consumers' pockets.
The rate adjustment will add about $1.50 to each bill if the consumer uses 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per month. The average Golden Triangle residential consumer averages between 1,000 and 1,500 kilowatt-hours a month, according to local officials.
TVA's budget for the upcoming years anticipates 4.6 percent lower sales year over year and is about 6 percent less than 2013. TVA provides power to roughly 9 million people in seven states across the southeast.
Each local distributor chooses whether to pass rate increases onto customers. 4-County Electric and Columbus Light & Water officials have not confirmed if they will, but CL&W general manager Todd Gale said it's probable.
CL&W accumulative sales are an estimated $40 million. The utility company could not absorb an extra 1.5 percent, or $600,000, as a result of the increase, Gale said.
"This is going to be a board decision for September but in the past the utility commission has just made it a clean pass-through," he said. "They've just passed it straight on without any markup."
Gale added that CL&W board members "are in tune to trying to keep rates down at a local level."
Columbus resident Jon Michael Murray said $18 a year might not sound significant, but it's $18 he won't have next year.
"Just to raise that is going to make it even harder on a lot of people with families that are really trying to make it and do the right thing out here," Murray said. "I speak as one of those families. We've got four kids and my job is barely making enough to pay bills. The car may break down and you've got all these extra taxes coming on. It makes it real difficult."
4-County currently charges 9.267 cents per kilowatt-hour for residents and 10.196 for businesses. Those numbers would change to about 9.406 and 10.349. Those are classified as energy charges. Demand charges, which are based on peak usage, are $4.70 for the first 50 kilowatts and $14.52 for each kilowatt over 50.
Currently, CL&W charges 8.91 cents per kilowatt-hour during the summer season. The increase would change that amount to about 9.04 cents. For businesses that use 50 or fewer kilowatts at peak hours each month, the rate would change from 9.80 cents to 9.95 per kilowatt-hour. The demand charge for businesses that use 50-1,000 kilowatts at peak hours is currently $11.74 and would change to about $11.92. For businesses that use 1,000 kilowatts or more each month, that number would change from $11.29 for the first 1,000 to $11.46.
Gale and Jon Turner, 4-County manager of public relations and marketing, encouraged residents to participate in the Home Energy Evaluation Program. The program allows customers to pay to have an electrician perform an energy audit of their residence and fix any issues causing more energy than necessary to be used. The customer then receives a refund for the audit and repair costs.
Otherwise, the number one thing to do to keep costs down is to keep a close eye on the thermostat, Gale and Turner both said.
"At the end of the day, electricity is still one of the best values around. On average, it costs 4-County residential members just over $5 a day to run their homes," Turner said. "At an average retail cost of 8-10 cents per kWh, the price of electricity has barely risen over the last 70 years, especially compared to the cost of a gallon of gas or other commodities."
This story contains additional reporting by The Associated Press.
Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.