published Thursday, April 17th, 2014

TVA May power bills to drop from April but still be up 4.2 percent from a year ago

Electric bills by the numbers

For a typical Chattanooga household that uses 1,461 kilowatthours of electricity in a month, power bills will average:

* $153.18 - In May 2014

* $155.56 - In April 2014

* $146.99 - In May 2013

Source: EPB of Chattanooga

After many homeowners paid record high power bills through the winter, electric customers will get a bit of a spring reprieve next month.

Cheaper fuel costs will push down the price of electricity generated by the Tennessee Valley Authority by more than 1.5 percent in May, saving the typical Chattanooga homeowner $2.38 on next month's light bill from the current rate.

The Tennessee Valley Authority, the federal utility that generates and supplies electricity in portions of seven Southeast states, is cutting its monthly fuel cost adjustment in May in response to lower demand and cheaper fuel prices compared with those in March and April.

But electric prices next month will still be 4.2 percent higher than a year ago, or more than double the general inflation rate over the past 12 months, according to figures supplied Wednesday by TVA's distributor in Chattanooga, EPB.

TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA's cheapest power source -- the rain-fed reservoirs that supply water for TVA's 29 power-generating dams -- was 43 percent below forecast during March due to below normal rainfall and runoff. Rainfall was 61 percent below normal for the overall system for March, and runoff was 54 percent below normal for the month across the system.

So far this year, rainfall in Chattanooga is more than 4 inches below normal.

TVA also is recovering from higher natural gas and purchased power prices pushed up by colder than normal temperatures in January, which had the coldest start of any year in the Tennessee Valley in nearly three decades. TVA recorded five of its top 10 all-time winter energy peaks in January and many homeowners were hit with electricity bills 30 to 40 percent higher than a year ago.

Temperatures were also below normal in March, Brooks said.

"It's all about demand and usage," he said. "When the weather is colder, people crank up their heaters and we have to purchase more fuel or buy power on the grid to meet the demand and that is more expensive."

TVA has not increased its base rates to cover general operating expenses, but the utility makes a monthly fuel cost adjustment to its charges to reflect changes in the price of fuel or purchased power.

Jacob Cagle, a 22-year-old UTC student who paid his electric bill Wednesday, said even with the higher price he still likes EPB's service.

"I'm not going to go cold, and overall I think EPB does a good job keeping the lights on," he said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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