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Staff file photo / An EPB "smart meter" is shown at a home in Red Bank.

Rising natural gas prices this year will also push up the cost of electricity next month during the hottest days of the summer.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is raising its monthly fuel cost adjustment in July to compensate for higher natural gas costs and usage. For the typical Chattanooga residence uses 1,295 kilowatthours of electricity, the change will add another $2.29 to their monthly power bill, boosting the monthly charge to $143.33.

Electricity rates for EPB due to the higher fuel cost adjustments will be up next month by more than 4% from a year ago, even though TVA granted EPB a credit to reduce its base rates in the past year.

Natural gas prices are nearly twice as high as they were a year ago. Natural gas futures ended last week at $3.215 per million British thermal units, up 96% from a year ago and the highest price headed into summer since 2017. Futures traded even higher—and regional spot prices jumped—when triple-digit temperatures baked the Southwest earlier this month.

Some analysts expect prices to be even higher later in the year when it is time to fire up furnaces.

Earlier this month, the Energy Information Administration raised its expected average 2021 Henry Hub natural gas spot price to $3.07/MMBtu, which would come in more than $1 above the $2.03 average recorded in 2020.

Alhough TVA is benefitting from abundant rainfall and nuclear power generation, TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said TVA's average fuel rate for July is still 10% higher this year than the average for the past three years.

"This is due to expectations for higher gas rates and modest increases in the sales forecast in the coming months as impacts of the pandemic begin to subside," Brooks said. "Steady natural gas price increases are the main driver for increased fuel costs."

TVA is trying to help power users not to sweat too much over the higher power prices by encouraging them to implement energy savings measures around the home.

To spur more people to consider the energy conservation ideas from TVA's EnergyRight program, the utility is launching a contest with prizes to those who sign up and are picked as winners in the Great Indoors Smart Summer Sweepstakes.

"As residents set out on an adventure to explore their homes' energy use with all the tips, tools and resources available to them at EnergyRight.com, they can rack up entries to win some pretty awesome weekly prizes along the way — plus, a $4,000 home appliance package grand prize for one lucky winner," TVA spokesman Scott Fiedler said.

The sweepstakes will run through August 8.

Fiedler said there are plenty of simple, everyday ways to save energy at home, including:

* Filter it out. Make sure your air conditioner filter is clean—a dirty filter means the air won't get as cool and the unit uses more power than necessary.

* Shut the doors. Keep cool air inside by minimizing the amount of times you open and shut your main doors leading outside. The same goes for your refrigerator door.

* Put your fans to use. Use ceiling and floor fans to keep air moving in your home. They use a lot less power than setting your air conditioner lower. But remember to turn them off when the room is empty.

* Unplug to power down. Unplug any unused or unnecessary electronic devices—even when they're turned off, they still use energy when plugged in. A power strip can make that even easier.

* Lighten up. Make the switch to more energy-efficient LED bulbs. They use 75% less energy and put off less heat.

* Set your thermostat straight. Setting your thermostat between 75-78 degrees during the day can make a significant difference in your power bill. Studies show that each degree you set your thermostat above 75 degrees could reduce energy usage by 10 to 15%.

* Make your own shade. Keep curtains closed during the day on the south, west, and east sides of the house to block out sunlight.

* Get smart in the kitchen. Plan meals that require less range or oven heat. Try using the microwave — or even the grill outside — more often.

* Cool down. Lower the temperature of your water heater to 120 degrees After all, most people don't want to take long, hot showers in summertime.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6340.

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