Concerned and suffering citizens have one message: Freeze the Fees!
Knoxville, Tenn. – As the cold month of January rolled around, a series of billboards popped up around town, urging residents to tell KUB to “Freeze the Fees”. In the last two weeks, over 800 residents have done just that, raising their voices against the monthly mandatory fees on their electric bills every month. Tomorrow, (Thursday, January 17, 2019) these petitions will be delivered to the KUB board and staff at their board meeting here in Knoxville. Knoxville resident Tiara – Lady Wilson, a former non profit executive who is now a disabled single mother living with two children in public housing will be delivering the petitions.
The “Freeze the Fees” campaign is focused on a largely unknown cause of spiking electric bills — mandatory monthly fees. These fees are present on all KUB bills, regardless of how much electricity a customer actually uses. The fees have been quietly increased over the years and are currently at $19 every month or $228 a year before a single light is turned on. This is a 300 percent increase from the 2010 fee of $6 a month. KUB is currently on track to raise these fees even higher, a trend that will negatively impact those on fixed and low to moderate incomes. Additionally, fixed fees that are not based on usage discourage efficient energy use as well as investments in technologies such as solar panels for homes and businesses because it removes the economic incentive of saving money.
The stories from the citizens speaking out against the fees offer a glimpse into the seriousness of this issue, especially highlighting the burden being felt by some of Knoxville’s most vulnerable community members, residents on fixed income, disabled, single parents, or those otherwise experiencing monthly budget constraints:
Karen describes herself as a “Single parent that can’t afford high bills to just stay warm”
Robin states: “I’m on a fixed income, have two kids. Can’t pay high energy bills.”
Amanda is considering moving outside of KUB’s service territory because of the issue: “It’s ridiculous that I pay fees on top of usage… I’m looking outside of KUB limits just to have a different utility company.”
Ricky sees it as an ethics issue: “I want KUB to freeze the fees because some of us are trying to live within our means, and arbitrary fee increases by our one and only utility provider for electric and gas service is ethically wrong.”
Daniel is a landlord in Knoxville, and finds the increasing fixed fees to be a burden on operating his properties: “As a landlord if I have an empty house I am charged “basic service” fees even if I use use no service or miniscule amounts… When I first started being a landlord my bills were much more fair, being charged for what I used. Now I’m being charged huge amounts even if I don’t use any service. Apparently it’s an extraordinary privilege just to be connected.
Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, provided the following statement: “We have repeatedly asked KUB to stop raising these regressive fees on people’s electric bills, but they are still going up, now 300% what they were in 2010. We are joining our voices with thousands of KUB customers to demand that KUB ‘Freeze the Fees.’ These fees hurt people with low or fixed incomes, take away the ability for customers to better control their bills, and serve as a disincentive for energy efficiency and solar investments by customers.”
Media Availability: Concerned citizens and representatives from Southern Alliance for Clean Energy will be available for comment before and after the board meeting in the front lobby.
Where: Knoxville Utilities Board, 445 S. Gay Street, Knoxville, TN
When: Board meeting to begin at noon, Thursday, January 17, 2019. Group will gather in the front lobby by 11:30 AM.
Who: Local contact, Laura Humphrey, 865-385-0865
Visuals: 800 petition names will be delivered. Map of billboard locations available upon request. Map of billboard locations available upon request.