Showing Up to Demand Energy Equity in Tennessee

This blog was written by Sandra Upchurch, former Energy Justice Manager at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | February 22, 2019 | Energy Justice, Tennessee, Utilities
Sandra, Jason, Michael with TN Sen. Steve Southerland

SACE staff Sandra Upchurch, Jason Carney, and Michael MacMiller joined our partners in NAACP’s Environmental & Climate Justice Committee (ECJ) in Nashville on February 19 for the TN NAACP State Conference’s “Day on the Hill” to push for smart decisions that protect Tennesseans and promote equitable energy policies.

In January the NAACP launched its 2019 Environmental and Climate Justice Decade of Transformation and Liberation national campaign. The ECJ campaign identified action items for each of the NAACP’s State Conferences that must be addressed this year as a key moment for ECJ in the context of the NAACP Civil Rights Agenda. Tennessee’s items respond to the overt ways that Tennessee’s current policies are disproportionately threatening low-income Tennesseans and communities of color.

SACE staff was on site and spent the day meeting with state decisionmakers, including Sen. Steve Southerland, Chair of Energy, Ag. & Natural Resources Committee; his fellow committee member Sen. Raumesh Akbari; and minority leader Rep. Karen Camper, among many other state leaders, to share information and educate our elected officials on the important ways that energy policy impacts our state’s most vulnerable citizens.

No More Hidden Fees!

TN Sen. Raumesh Akbari and Sandra Upchurch

SACE joins NAACP in decrying TVA’s decision to implement a fixed Grid Access Charge. As explained in our joint letter, we are concerned with fixed fees because:

  • Increasing the fixed fee punishes everyone who conserves energy (especially low-usage customers who monitor their energy usage closely to keep their energy bills low). This is overtly anti-consumer.
  • Many Tennesseans spend a high proportion of their monthly income on utility bills. Higher fixed fees mean even less money in their pockets.
  • Higher fixed fees extend the payback period on renewable energy investments and lower the value of energy efficiency and energy conservation investments.

Thanks to the Grid Access Charge, TVA now charges local power companies a fixed fee to purchase wholesale power, which many companies pass on to their own customers. The local companies also charge their own fixed fees. For the majority of billpayers, these fees are not visible on the monthly bill (hidden!).

Together, SACE & NAACP are requesting any fixed fee charged by Local Power companies in the state or by TVA be entered as a separate line item on our monthly bills, separate from the kilowatt- hour charge.

Clean Energy is for Everyone, Not Just a Select Few

We also talked with legislators about the need to avoid preemptive, unnecessary, expensive, and dangerous energy disconnects: Knoxville’s KUB and Memphis’s MLGW currently give only 3 notices prior to disconnection while Nashville’s NES gives 5. We shared with our legislators that 5 should be the bare minimum to protect consumers. Additionally, we are fighting to protect weatherization programs funded by opt-out customer bill round-ups, so that they can continue to empower homeowners to upgrade their homes and escape the cycle of leaky homes, high bills, and financial distress.

Michael, Rep. Karen Camper, Sandra

Tennessee Must Meet Our Standards!

NAACP has crafted standards that states should meet when pursuing a “cleaner, greener, more equitable future,” including renewable energy and energy efficiency standards; net metering policies; legislation giving minority and woman-owned businesses equitable access to green jobs and clean energy opportunities; and allowing communities to take advantage of solar energy. Tennessee falls short on every one of these points.

We will continue to show up again and again to call for state policies that protect ALL Tennesseans and put the needs of our community members above the desires of utility companies.  


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