New TVA rate structure likely to harm low-income families

TVA’s main headquarters in Knoxville, Tenn. Composite by Appalachian Voices, adapted from a photo by Brian Stansberry

The Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors voted today to implement a rate change that will increase fixed fees incurred by local power companies via a “Grid Access Charge.”

In letter addressed to the TVA board, a diverse coalition of service agencies, nonprofits and community groups, including Appalachian Voices, asked that the board reject the rate change because it will force low-income customers to bear a disproportionate burden of TVA’s cost recovery. Over 1,700 additional public comments documenting these concerns were submitted to TVA prior to today’s decision.

“By reducing the portion of our energy costs that we can control, the new rate structure will also shrink the cost effectiveness of residential renewable energy and energy efficiency” said Bri Knisley, Tennessee Outreach Coordinator for Appalachian Voices and Knoxville resident. “This rate structure is bad for progress and quality of life in the Tennessee Valley.”

The new rate structure will go into effect in October of this year. Local power companies will have the option of passing the rate structure on to their customers and members or choosing a default rate set by TVA. TVA’s own Environmental Assessment for the rate change estimates that the new rate structure would result in higher energy bills for most residential customers, regardless of how it is implemented. With the new rate structure in place, TVA will not be required to go through another public process in order to increase the Grid Access Charge in the future, which would lead to an even greater energy cost burden for low-income families.

“What TVA’s board approved today not only sets a dangerous precedent for the future, but it effectively attacks people who are already struggling to pay their energy bills,” said Rory McIlmoil, Energy Savings Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. “Hundreds of thousands of households in Tennessee alone already pay 20 percent or more of their annual income on energy costs, and this new rate structure will only make that worse.”

In addition to the newly passed rate change, TVA is slated to consider a 1.5 percent retail rate increase this fall, which would be the fifth annual rate hike implemented by TVA since 2014.

Bri Knisley, Appalachian Voices,, 865-291-0083, ext 701
Rory McIlmoil, Appalachian Voices,, 423-433-9415