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By the numbers

* $144.59 -- Average Chattanooga residential electric bill next month, down 2.6 percent from the current monthly rate

* $143.67 -- Average Chattanooga residential electric bill in November 2013

* $97.45 -- Average Dalton residential electric bill for 2015, up 5.5 percent from the current average

Sources: EPB rates for Chattanooga customer using 1,461 kilowatt-hours per month, and Dalton Utilities rates for average residential customer using 1,052 kilowatthours per month

After the Polar Vortex put an extra chill in the monthly bills of many TVA ratepayers earlier this year, electricity users are getting a reprieve this fall.

TVA will cut November power rates because of a drop in the utility's monthly fuel cost adjustment. For the typical Chattanooga household that heats with electricity, next month's bill will be $3.84 lower with the drop in the fuel-cost portion of the monthly power bill.

The 2.6 percent cut in electric rates next month from the drop in fuel costs more than offsets the 1.5 percent wholesale rate increase adopted this month as part of TVA's fiscal 2015 budget.

Since last winter when cold temperatures and rising gas prices spiked TVA generation costs, the fuel-cost portion of TVA bills has dropped nearly 30 percent, cutting the overall wholesale rate charged by TVA by about 9 percent from its April peak.

"This (November rate) is the lowest the fuel cost has been since we started including all the fuel charges in 2010," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said Wednesday. "The cold weather in January forced TVA and other utilities to use more expensive sources of fuel and generating capacity, but we're expecting a milder fall and our fuel cost adjustment reflects that."

TVA's biggest customers, who complained to TVA earlier this year about the federal utility raising rates more than some neighboring utilities, welcomed the drop in power charges next month.

"It's always good news when the cost of power goes down," said John Van Mol, executive director for the Tennessee Valley Industrial Committee, which represents the biggest direct-served industries in the Tennessee Valley. "Our members are not so worried about the volatility of monthly rates so long as rates are kept as low as possible."

The November monthly fuel cost will be about 17 percent lower than the three-year average for November, Brooks said. But other TVA base rate increases and rate adjustments by distributors will leave EPB rates slightly higher than a year ago, EPB spokesman John Pless said.

TVA adjusts the fuel-cost portion of its rates every month and adjusts the base rates for its overall operating budget once a year. For the past couple of years, TVA base rates have risen each year by 1.5 percent, which is less than the general inflation rate.

TVA-generated power is sold to 155 municipalities and power co-ops that deliver electricity to most of the 9 million people living in TVA's 7-state region. Those distributors also can adjust their rates, with TVA approval.

To the south, Dalton Utilities has not increased rates in recent years. But Dalton Utilities is considering a proposed 2015 budget that will raise electric rates for residential customers by an average 5.5 percent in January, except for senior citizens.

Lori McDaniel, communications manager for Dalton Utilities, said the utility is proposing to blend the differing summer and winter electric rates into a common year-round common rate that will average about $97.45 for the typical household. That's up by $11.38 from the average $86.07 charged in the summer for Dalton Utilities' customers but still below the current $106.88 average monthly charge in winter months.

Dalton Utilities will not raise commercial or industrial electric rates under the proposed 2015 budget, which the Dalton Utilities board is scheduled to vote upon in November.

"We base our rates on the costs of service, and it cost more to serve our residential customers (who are more spread out)," McDaniel said.

Dalton Utilities, which is not a distributor for TVA, owns part of two coal plants. McDaniel said increased pollution control requirements on those plants are driving up the cost of power.

Dalton Utilities, which also provides water, sewer and gas to its 13,000 customers, also is proposing a 10 percent increase in water and wastewater charges per month in its urban territory, McDaniel said.

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

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