This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.Guest Blog | November 29, 2018
Knoxville Utilities Board (KUB) is hitting their customers hard with some of the highest fixed fees of a municipal utility in the TVA service territory. KUB approved a $1.50 basic customer charge (a.k.a fixed fee) increase each year from 2017-2019. The most recent October increase should now be visible on your November bill. Raising mandatory fixed fees increases the power bills for thousands of families who are already overburdened by utility costs. That means we pay $19 a month before even flipping a switch!
In response to this injustice, since January, SACE has been organizing KUB customers to come and speak-out at their monthly board meetings. We’ve had dozens join us to speak to the board about how high fixed fees are affecting their households and nearly 150 emailed letters sent asking Gabe Bolas, the CEO, to stop raising fixed fees. But they don’t seem to be letting up on the fixed fees despite hearing what their customers have to say:
“In my case, I already keep my thermostat at 78 degrees in the summer and 68 degrees in the winter to minimize my bill and yet…While your fixed fees have risen 300% since 2010, my Social Security income has risen 4%.”- Logan Mulford, KUB customer
“I’ve been a single mom for 12 years…also running my own business the last 8 years. Every single dollar counts… and no matter what, you HAVE to have the lights on. Many months of the year, the utility bill is a struggle and many months, my bill gets paid late. Even raising the cost $5 could make it that much more difficult to keep up with the bill.” -Jodanna Knabe, KUB customer
“K.U.B. along with TVA preaches conservation then on the other hand you raise the minimum charges so high they negate any savings that might come from changing bulbs to LED or lowering the thermostat as you suggest. I personally had a 5kw solar array on my house almost 4 years ago. And now in 2018, any savings that I have seen with my solar is is pretty much nonexistent with the rise of the minimum charges.” -David Cross- KUB customer
Unless we continue to stand up and fight back together, that fee will climb to nearly $30 a month by 2027. KUB’s ten year plan proposes fixed fee increases between $1-$1.25 every year. Without KUB customers speaking out, the board may approve another three years worth of increases. High fixed fees mean we have higher bills, and less control over our bills despite our efforts to conserve electricity. Electric bills in TN are some of the highest in the nation, and too many KUB customers pay as much as 18.5% of their income on energy bills. The last thing we need is higher fees.
Even though the KUB Board continues to raise the fees, I can tell that they are starting to take notice of our actions. At the last board meeting on November 15th, a KUB executive presented that the average electric bill has been fairly consistent since 2011, despite the percentage of the fixed fee increasing 300% over the same time period. This huge increase of fixed fees de-incentives KUB customers to be energy efficient since they won’t see a difference in their bills. To make KUB a true leader in our state, they would encourage energy efficiency and clean energy use, not discourage it. Our environment and our children and grandchildren’s future depends on it.
It’s clear now that KUB leadership cannot continue to rubber stamp increased fixed fees over and over again, and hundreds of Renew TN supporters are standing together to demand change. Here are three ways you can get involved:
- If you haven’t already, send an email to Gabe Bolas, KUB’s new CEO. Take our action here.
- The next KUB Board meeting is December 20th, 2018, at 12pm in downtown Knoxville at 445 S. Gay Street. Simply coming to speak about how high fees hurt your household. Email Laura [email protected] if you can attend.
- Call KUB and ask them to stop raising the basic customer charge and to repeal the decision to raise the current fees. Take action here!
Want to learn more about how you can get involved? Email Laura Humphrey, [email protected]. If KUB continues to ignore the request of their customers, we will continue to have actions to fight back. We’ll need your help, so stay tuned!