Chattanooga: Power cutoffs decline

Chattanooga: Power cutoffs decline

February 21st, 2009 by Jason Reynolds in Business

Despite higher power rates, cold weather and a recession, EPB cut off 24.5 percent fewer customers in January than the same month a year ago.

The utility credited its payment system as among the most flexible in the region.

"We're generating more cutoff notices and more extensions, but less cutoffs," Harold DePriest, EPB's president and chief executive, told the utility's board Friday. "So, the extensions are working."

The number of disconnections in January was 3,155, versus 4,177 a year ago, said Danna Bailey Cannon, vice president of marketing. The number of customers who asked for extensions and other arrangements totaled 21,319, versus 18,630 in January a year ago.

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EPB anticipates granting 400,000 bill payment extensions this year, twice the usual number.

For all of last year, EPB granted about 200,000 extensions, which is normal, Mr. DePriest said, but the utility anticipates granting 400,000 extensions this year.

EPB allows a customer to make two extensions per month. Among payment options is permitting a bill to be broken up into two payments.

Mr. DePriest said many utilities allow just two extensions per year normally.

Utilities are willing to work with customers, especially in winter, said Robert McCarty, communications coordinator for Volunteer Energy Cooperative.

The co-op mails out a final notice at least three business days before cutting power, he said, and it will make a final attempt to collect before sending a technician to cut the flow of electricity. Area managers have flexibility to extend payments or set up scheduled payments, he said.

Mr. DePriest warned of a possible increase in disconnections after the Tennessee Valley Authority raised its rates by 20 percent in October, including an increase in the fuel cost adjustment. Since then, TVA lowered prices by 6 percent and plans a 7 percent cut in April.