Knoxville, Tenn. — Knoxville residents may be noticing a couple of changes recently, namely higher electric bills and some brand new billboards popping up around town. Located at ten high-traffics spots throughout local power company KUB’s service territory (map of billboard locations available on request), these billboards are urging citizens to take a closer look at their increasingly high electricity bills.
These billboards are one of the latest efforts supported by a coalition of community, environment, and small business advocates throughout Tennessee. The groups are working together to raise awareness about 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 gradually increased over the years and are currently at $19 every month. That is $19 a customer owes to KUB before turning on a single light in their home. This is a 300 percent increase from the 2010 fee of $6 a month. Advocates are utilizing these billboards to explain that unless something changes, these fees could continue to rise, 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.
Elder Jimmie M. Garland, Vice President of the Tennessee State Conference NAACP, provided this statement: “As the temperatures drop and bills go up, partially thanks to higher than ever monthly fees from KUB, it is the everyday people of Knoxville who bear this burden. Our neighbors should not be weighed down with unjustly high fees before they even turn on the lights – We are telling KUB that’s it’s past time to ‘Freeze the Fees.’”
Lenda Sherrell, State Director of the Tennessee Small Business Association stated: “Employing 1.1 million people throughout Tennessee, despite the daily challenges of competing against larger corporations, small businesses are the heart and soul of The Valley, including right here in Knoxville. These high monthly fees are a challenge for small businesses because they take one more tool out of their business toolbox – namely the ability to control their monthly operating expenses by using less energy or going solar.”
“Mandatory fees take away individuals’ freedom to control something as basic as their monthly electric bill,” added Debbie Dooley, Tea Party Co-Founder and President of Conservatives for Energy Freedom. “Consumers should have the right to save money through investing in solar and energy efficiency, but these high fees effectively take that choice away.”
Executive Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Dr. Stephen Smith, stated: “I know of very few things that have increased 300% in less than ten years. KUB’s demanding that we pay more each month before we turn on the first light switch is bad policy as it hurts consumers and small businesses. High fixed fees disproportionately affect our most vulnerable community members and discourage energy efficiency and solar energy. These high charges also set a bad predicted for “lazy rate making” where KUB customers pay more no matter how much they use, regardless of the quality of service or the cost effectiveness of the operation of the monopoly utility. It is our hope that these billboards get KUB’s executives and board members attention so they understand that customers are serious about Freezing the Fees!”
Included on the billboard is a link to a new website, www.freezethefees.org, where KUB customers are encouraged to sign a petition urging KUB to stop increasing the mandatory monthly charges and “Freeze the Fees”. Before this petition even began, customers were already speaking out, attending KUB board meetings, sending emails to the new KUB CEO, Gabe Bolas, and even making personal phones calls to share how this increasing fee is an unjust billing practice that negatively impacts the community.
About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.