LES customers might get $7 break

Friday, December 19, 2008

Lewisburg Electric System customers may expect to see a $7 reduction on their power bill next month, according to the utility's general manager.

All meters read after Jan. 1 will result in bills that have a lower TVA fuel adjustment fee, according to Richard Turner, general manager of the city's electric system.

"It's going down approximately six percent on the fuel adjustment," Turner said. "It's not on the whole bill."

The Tennessee Valley Authority charges a separate fee to cover its fuel costs. That additional charge was developed as gasoline and other petroleum product prices were increasing. Now that the price of gas has dropped from about $4 a gallon to $1.50, the fuel adjustment fee is also lower.

"We received our notification 10 days ago," Turner said. "We have to contact our billing agency to give them the numbers so they can bill it."

Turner was, on Wednesday, anticipating an announcement from TVA "any day now."

The impact on an average Lewisburg resident's home electric bill is expected to be about $6- $8, Turner said of the fuel adjustment fee that local power utilities must pass along to customers.

"We've had numerous complaints on it," Turner said of customers who've been told more about the TVA charge.

"The people are not mad at us," Turner said. "We tell them to call the TVA office in Columbia. That's our contact."

The phone number is (931) 380-8039.

Meanwhile, Turner says his department's operations are not facing conditions that are bad enough to prompt a rate hike.

"We're still operating in the black," he said.

The Lewisburg Electric System pays to TVA 87 cents out of every dollar of revenue for the power it receives from the federal utility.

"We're not raising rates," Turner said. "And, we are prepared for the slowdown in the business."

That will come with Sanford Corp.'s closure of its pencil factory here in late 2009, he said.

"And we understand that some of the other plants are cutting down to four days a week, and cutting off the third shift," Turner said.

All of that will reduce power consumption.

But it will also affect some customers' ability to pay and Lewisburg Electric does give extensions on bills for people with hardship, Turner said.

"That may give us heart burn because there may be so many people with the layoffs," he continued. "We do eventually have to collect the bill, but we can put it off a bit."

Other programs exist to help power customers with their bills. One is through the South Central Tennessee Human Resources Agency in Tullahoma. Turner and other utility chiefs met with an agency representative recently about an energy assistance program for income households.

"They will put $2 in for every $1 we put into the program," Turner said of a service that helps customers and their utilities.

"Customers still get a bill, but it's paid," Turner said. "The agency sends a check here."

In other utility developments, Lewisburg Power is continuing to trim tree branches to prevent "line loss" of electricity and the concurrent interruption of power service to customers.

"Trees and power don't mix too well," Turner said.