Hot weather to keep electric bills high, even as fall begins

Hot weather to keep electric bills high, even as fall begins

September 24th, 2016 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Summertime 2016 ended Thursday, but electric ratepayers are still feeling the heat.

Temperatures in July and August pushed up power demand — and most residential electric bills — in Chattanooga by 14 percent above year-ago levels, EPB officials said Friday. And the hotter and drier weather will continue to keep up electric bills next month when the Tennessee Valley Authority raises its rates for fiscal 2017.

EPB Chief Financial Officer Greg Eaves told the utility board Friday that power sales during the summertime months of July and August totaled $121 million, or $11 million above what was budgeted. The extra power sales from air conditioners coping with 90-degree-plus highs most days this summer helped generate $4.7 million of net income in the first two months of EPB's fiscal year, up from only $318,000 of profits in the same period a year ago.

"We sold a lot more power than we budgeted (in July and August) and September looks to be another good month for sales," Eaves said.

With the decline in power sales in the fall, TVA's monthly fuel cost adjustment will edge lower next month, partially offsetting the impact of the 2 percent base rate increase planned by TVA for fiscal 2017.

EPB projects that the typical residential customer who uses 1,295 kilowatthours of power a month will pay $142.10 for electricity in October, up by $1.72, or 1.2 percent, from the current month. The average power bill, assuming similar electric use, will be up by $2.99, or 2.1 percent, from what it was in October 2015, according to EPB.

"The overall system average fuel rate is approximately 4 percent higher than the three-year average for October," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said. "This is largely due to higher than expected sales in July and August and lower than expected hydro generation during that same time period."

For all of calendar 2016 so far, TVA said rainfall in the river basin above Chattanooga is about 6 inches below normal and runoff is 4 inches less than normal. That has cut TVA's power generation to 37 percent less than the typical generation level from TVA's 29 hydroelectric dams, which supply the utility its lowest cost power.

Even with the rate increase in October, Brooks said TVA still ranks 31st among the top 100 electric utilities for the price of its residential electricity.

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