Take a 15 percent spike in fees from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Combine that with one of the coldest Decembers on record. What does that equate to? A January electric bill that is more expensive than usual.
Weakley County Municipal Electric System Director Faron Collins tried to shed some light on the above average municipal electric bills that have gone out in the last few weeks.
“TVA said that it had set an all-time peak because of the coldest December they have had on record in the region,” Collins said.
With so many holidays falling within one billing cycle – Christmas, New year’s and Martin Luther King Day – Collins said many WCMES customers also noticed a 35-day billing cycle this month.
“It varies with our customers month to month on when our meter readers will actually check their meters. With so many holidays in one billing cycle, our meter readers were off for those holidays. Some people’s bills were for all of December. Others show some of December and some of January, so the bills going out will vary,” Collins said.
Collins added that the TVA rates had increased by about 15 percent due to fuel costs and the costs to use natural gas and nuclear fuel have apparently increased for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
On a lighter note, Collins said they expect that rate to decrease by one percent for the month of February and a shorter billing cycle may be in store for the next utility bill that ends up in the mailbox.
In the meantime, how can those people faced with $200-plus electric bills for this month keep their lights on and their heat running if they are strapped for cash following the holiday season?
Collins said a customer can make payment arrangements at the company’s main office, as long as those arrangements are made before the bill’s due date.
“Don’t wait until we send someone out there to issue you a cut-off notice for your electricity.
“By then, it’s too late. If you can make payments, do that and set it up before the bill’s actual due date and before the date for a late fee is to be assessed,” Collins said.
He stressed that the bill must be paid before the next month’s bill is issued.
The company has referred people to non-profit agencies such as the Northwest Tennessee Economic Development Council and We Care Ministries who couldn’t pay their electric bills to seek help, according to Collins.
When asked if holiday lights could also contribute to the spike in utility bills, Collins shared that surprisingly they didn’t consume as much energy.
“We forget how cold it has been by the time we get our bills for electricity. Christmas lights don’t compare to what heating units consume and I can remember a time in December when my heating units never shut off because it was so cold,” Collins noted.
Even with the projected one percent decrease in TVA rates for next month, Collins said that a trend in increasing rates is possibly in the near future.
“We are charging the same price per kilowatt hour and the TVA rates are still below the rates issued in 2008. I do think they will just continue to climb this year though,” Collins admitted.
“This is affecting people all over the Mid-South. They are having the same problems all over the place,” the WCMES director added.