Electric bill too high? Here's why

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Customer service representatives at area utility companies are frequently hearing an all-too-common question these days:

Why is my electric bill so high?

While no two electricity consumers are exactly the same, Volunteer Energy Cooperative offers some common factors that are driving electric bills up this winter.

Record cold temperatures

According to the National Weather Service, Chattanooga experienced the sixth coldest December on record with a monthly average temperature of 35.9 degrees.

That’s just 1.6 degrees warmer than the record set in 1917.

The National Weather Service’s Knoxville station recorded the sixth coldest December on record with an average monthly temperature of 32.8 degrees.

The record in the Knoxville area was set in December 1876, when the average monthly temperature was 29.2 degrees.

December’s average temperatures were dramatically lower than those experienced in November, and that led to a dramatic monthly increase in energy costs for most consumers.

Heat pumps and furnaces in most homes worked around the clock to maintain indoor temperatures, and that
translated into higher energy costs for most consumers.

TVA fuel-cost adjustment

Another factor that accounted for a small amount of the increase for some consumers was the Tennessee Valley Authority’s fuel-cost adjustment charge.

Electricity distributors like VEC who purchase power from TVA typically pass through this charge to consumers.

While December’s temperatures were close to those experienced in January 2010, the fuel-cost adjustment in January 2010 resulted in a credit for consumers. The adjustment actually deducted between $20-$30 for most consumers.

But in December, the adjustment added between $15 and $25 to the typical consumer’s bill.

Energy evaluation

The free in-home energy evaluation program helps customers decrease the amount of energy they use in their home.

The in-home energy evaluation is co-sponsored by TVA and participating electricity distributors.

Under Volunteer Energy’s program, participants receive a free in-home inspection.

The inspector will recommend home improvements and lifestyle changes that can help customers decrease their energy consumption.

There is no obligation to the customer to follow up on any of the recommendations, but if they choose to make improvements, they can qualify for rebates of up to 50 percent of what they spend on those improvements.

A federal tax credit available for energy-efficiency home improvements expired at the end of 2010, but the rebates will available at least through September 2011.

In September, TVA and distributors will re-evaluate the program to decide whether the rebates will be available beyond that date.

Volunteer Energy customers interested in the free in-home energy evaluation program can also get details at www.vec.org or by contacting Kristy Kelly in the cooperative’s office of marketing and economic development at 423-334-7055.

Programs and payment options may vary by electricity provider.