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Citizens question billing fluctuations

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

A group of Johnson County citizens has described what they believe is a trend this winter. Approximately 40 people reached out via social media to discuss an increase in their electricity bills, which they report are significantly higher than the norm for this season. Others show no significant fluctuations. 

Complaints from the former group cover the spectrum from young adults to senior citizens. Many of them claim that nothing changed from their average usage. Some claimed that they switched their primary heat to non-electric sources or were out of town and unable to use electricity during decent chunks of the billing cycle. Two individuals reportedly reached out to the local co-op to ask for answers and were told it was correct for their energy use. 

The question is whether an environmental issue is to blame or if there is an unidentified problem. The Tomahawk reached out to Mountain Electric for its views on the subject. According to Mountain Electric Director of Member Services Sally Snyder, lower temperatures and extended time home because of the COVID-19 pandemic are the culprits. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fuel charges, representing “18 to 20 percent of a residential bill are reportedly less and result in “roughly three percent lower residential rates for this December and January.”

According to the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) National Climate Report for 2020, Tennessee was slightly warmer than average this year, and 2020 was the fifth warmest year on record nationwide. In contrast, the report also says it has been the coldest winter since 2012. These temperature changes could be a key factor. According to Mountain Electric, listing there were 21 days below freezing this past December, and both December and January temperatures were four to five degrees cooler on average.

“Colder temperatures mean more energy used,” explained Snyder. “Due to the colder weather, customers’ heating costs are higher than last winter. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, members are staying home more than they did in 2019. They are using more electricity due to the increased use of electronics, cooking appliances, lights, etc. Many are working from home, staying home due to quarantine, or have children at home for virtual learning. All these factors certainly play a role in how much energy is used.”

Mountain Electric offered a few tips on how to conserve energy, decreasing customers’ monthly bills. Most of the suggestions revolve around controlling and maintaining temperatures on personal thermostats (68 degrees Fahrenheit), water heaters (120 degrees Fahrenheit), refrigerators (35 to 38 degrees Fahrenheit), and freezers (0 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit). Other simple changes, such as turning off lights, changing air filters, and air-drying dishes are recommended.

Mountain Electric officials suggest that customers take a short, free survey from energyright.com to receive a free TVA kit with customized energy-saving tips, two LED light bulbs, and a $10 Home Depot gift card. Customers can also make an account on the Mountain Electric website to gauge daily usage.

Find out more about Mountain Electric at mountainelectric.com. Visit energyright.com/residential/services/home-energy-assessment for your free TVA kit. Kits should arrive in approximately eight weeks.

See the documents below for more information on billing rates.
Mountain Electric Billing Rates