NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Your electric bill is about to get a little pricier starting in the fall, but a consumer watchdog group said the money is funding new projects, including a power plant in Cheatham County that they said should not be built.
As Tennessee continues to grow, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the power company that fuels that economy, said it must grow as well.
“The TVA energy system we built over the last 90 years will double or triple its capacity over the next three decades, so we have to build another system or two over that period of time,” said TVA CEO Jeff Lyash during an August public meeting in Chattanooga.
That construction costs money that you, the electric user, will pay. At its recent meeting, the TVA board voted to increase the base rate on your bill to 4.5% starting in October as the utility embarks on a $15 billion investment plan on the grid over the next three years.
“We consumers care about that because we have to pay the total power bill – the total rate, plus the fuel cost. So we care,” said Roger Babb.
Babb, who heads the Tennessee Valley Energy Consumer Group, petitioned TVA saying he’s concerned it plans to use most of the $15 billion to build new natural gas plants, like the one discussed for Cheatham County. Both the Cheatham County Commission and Ashland City Council signed their own resolutions condemning the project.
Babb said the TVA should put less dollars in building new natural gas plants, which he calls a volatile energy source, and more money into solar power and making homes energy efficient.
“Our group is representing the rate payers and what we want is reliable power at the lowest feasible cost, but building plants that you don’t need goes against that philosophy,” said Babb.
TVA said it is putting $100 million into energy efficiency programs and aims to add 10,000 megawatts of solar by 2035, while acknowledging that a higher energy bill, especially for those on a fixed income, can take a toll.
“These funds are going to be used with a high degree of stewardship to invest in the reliability and resilience of TVA’s system and to support the continued economic growth that will raise wages for people in this region,” said Lyash.
Babb said that the Tennessee Valley Energy Consumer Group plans to do its own study. He said does not believe TVA will see the demand on the grid that its expecting in the coming decades.