Yesterday, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) previewed a budget forecast that did not include further increases to the basic mandatory charge or fixed fee portion of customers electric bills for at least two years.Kate Tracy and Maggie Shober | August 16, 2019
Yesterday, the Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) previewed a budget forecast that did not include further increases to the basic mandatory charge or fixed fee portion of customers’ electric bills for at least two years. Currently, customers are paying $19 each month in fixed fees for electricity before they even flip on a light switch. That fee goes up to $20.50 this November under a rate increase the KUB Board approved in 2016. Since the beginning of 2019, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) has delivered over 3,000 customer signatures asking KUB to “freeze the fees” after the utility tripled fixed fees over the past decade. High fixed fees contribute to high energy burdens, or the portion of income spent on energy, and tend to hurt customers that use less electricity, particularly low-income and minority households. High fixed fees also reduce customer’s abilities to control their bill and reduce the incentive to use less energy.
The decision to freeze the fees for the next two years is not final. We believe that had it not been for the thousands of people who signed the freeze the fee petition, the hundreds who told us their energy burden stories, and the many who raised their voices at KUB board meetings, the KUB Board might not have paid attention to this issue and listened to their customer’s concerns. Thank you to our volunteers for contributing to this cause!
The KUB Board of Directors will make a final decision on the rates KUB customers will pay for the next three years in May or June of 2020. SACE applauds the KUB Board for not requesting an increase in fees and rates in the near term but remains cautiously optimistic as KUB has not stated a policy to ensure fixed fees only reflect fixed costs in the future. We welcome the fact that KUB has stated an intention to stop increasing the regressive fixed fees for the next few years; this is a step in the right direction for KUB and we are hopeful that KUB leadership has been listening to customer concerns. Energy consumption rates may appear low, yet fixed fees are high and that leads to higher bills for Knoxvillians. These high fixed fees prevent customers from controlling their monthly electric bills and disincentives energy conservation. We hope that any future increases on customers bills will be on the usage portion of the bill, as opposed to the fixed portion.
The KUB Board also approved a program to provide customers a $400 rebate for installing an electric vehicle charger at their house. Watch the presentation on the EV charger resolution (45:00). We are pleased KUB is interested in becoming a leader in encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles through the introduction of this incentive. Electric vehicles emit significantly less greenhouse gas pollution than their gas-powered counterparts, even when accounting for fossil-fueled electricity. It is imperative that utilities incentivize customers to adopt cleaner transportation options that help Knoxville achieve its newly passed carbon reduction goals and promote cleaner, healthier communities.