On May 10th, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Directors voted against low-income families, low energy users and a clean energy future for the Tennessee Valley by passing a rate structure that will force local power companies to pay TVA a new “Grid Access Charge.” The GAC will serve as a new “fixed” or “mandatory” fee that will reduce both local power companies’ and end users’ ability to control their monthly energy costs. As a result, the cost-effectiveness of residential renewable energy and energy efficiency will also suffer.
In a 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 of the disproportionate burden that will be forced upon low-income families. Over 1,700 additional public comments documenting these concerns were submitted to TVA prior to their decision.
The new rate structure will go into effect in October of this year. Though 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 structure will result in higher energy bills for most residential customers, regardless of how it is implemented.
With hundreds of thousands of households in Tennessee already paying 20% or more of their annual income on energy costs, many are asking why TVA is prioritizing the needs of industrial customers (who will benefit from the new rate structure) over the residents they are obligated to serve.
According to a presentation shared by TVA, future increases to the Grid Access Charge will not be required to go through a public input process. This provision sets a dangerous precedent that will enable TVA to increase energy costs for residential customers in the valley with little to no public oversight.
On top of these changes, TVA is slated to consider another 1.5% retail rate increase this fall, which would be the fifth annual rate hike implemented by TVA since 2014.
As local power companies adjust to TVA’s new Grid Access Charge, it’s hard to know how quickly the impacts will be felt by ratepayers throughout the valley. While some power companies already have fixed fees in place and clearly label those fees on their bills, many may introduce or increase their fixed fees without making them visible to their customers. Bill transparency will be an essential demand of customers and members who want to monitor the effects this rate change will have on their energy costs.
In order to track bill transparency across TVA, we’re working with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy to collect copies of electric bills from the customers and members of local power companies throughout the valley. If you’re willing to support this research and share your most recent energy bill, please scan and send to firstname.lastname@example.org (no personal information from your bill will be shared).
Contact Brianna Knisley, Appalachian Voices’ Energy Savings Outreach Coordinator in Tennessee, at email@example.com to find out more about how you can join the fight for increased bill transparency.