Heat wave prompts TVA rate hike
to bump electric bills $3-6
By Eric Fleischauer
and Evan Belanger
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2433
TVA put an exclamation point after the worst heat wave in North Alabama history with its announcement Thursday that it would temporarily hike rates.
Between October and December, Tennessee Valley Authority will bump electricity costs up by .432 cents per kilowatt hour, which it said will add between $3 and $6 to the typical bill for residential consumers.
The announcement comes as demand for electricity, largely to keep homes cool, is at an all-time high. Temperatures soared Thursday, topping 104 degrees and marking the ninth consecutive day of triple-digit heat.
That ties a record for most consecutive days above 100 degrees set in 1935, according to the National Weather Service in Huntsville. It also beat the record for the warmest Aug. 16, which was recorded at 101 in 1954.
Friday's high temperature is predicted at 99 degrees, but a NWS forecaster said it could reach 100.
As a result of high temperatures and lack of rainfall, the Alabama Forestry Commission stepped up its fire prevention Thursday, upgrading 59 counties — including Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence — from fire alert to a no-burn order.
While the NWS predicts the possibility of thunderstorms over the weekend, the potential rainfall is not expected to significantly improve the region's drought situation.
As of Thursday, the Decatur area was more than 20 inches below normal rainfall for the year. So far this month, the NWS has recorded no rainfall in the area.
Drought conditions statewide prompted a response from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Thursday.
In response to drought, flooding and tornadoes across the nation, the USDA released $16 million to help rehabilitate damaged lands. Of that, $1.04 million will go to Alabama.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, applauded the funding, but said more is needed to help Alabama farmers recover.
"It's a good first step, but unfortunately all Alabama farmers don't qualify for this assistance," he said. "I look forward to working with the secretary (of agriculture) in the future to ensure that any available assistance is directed to Alabama's farmers and ranchers suffering from drought."
Heat and drought are the major factors in the temporary rate hike announced by TVA.
The TVA estimate of a $3 to $6 monthly increase might be a little low. Decatur Utilities General Manager Stan Keenum said the average electricity use in Decatur residences is about 1,500 kilowatt hours per month, calculated over a full year. Hot and cold months tend to run higher.
A residence consuming 1,500 kilowatt hours between October and December would pay an extra $6.48 per month.
Keenum said Decatur Utilities passes the TVA hike straight to the consumer.
The rate hike applies solely to "firm power." That means it affects all residential users. Many industrial users contract with TVA for at least some percentage of "interruptible power," which is not affected by the rate hike.
With advance notice, TVA can cut interruptible power to industries in the event of a power shortage. Despite historic power demand, it has not had to do so this summer.
The main reason for the temporary rate hike, called a "cost adjustment" by TVA, is the drought. Hydroelectric power is the cheapest for TVA, and dry conditions have cut hydro generation by 40 percent.
The most expensive source of electricity for TVA is generated from gas-fired turbines. The shortfall in hydroelectric, compounded by heat-related production drops at Browns Ferry nuclear plant and extremely high demand, means TVA must rely more heavily on gas-fired turbines.
How to cut electric use
TVA encouraged consumers to take certain steps to reduce electricity consumption, especially between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. when electricity demand is greatest. You can improve energy efficiency by taking these steps:
Turn up thermostats from 75 to 78 degrees. Raise it even more when no one is home.
Avoid running dishwashers, washing machines and electric clothes dryers between 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Use the “sleep mode” on computers.
Keep curtains closed on the south, east and west sides of the house during the day.
Use the microwave instead of a stove burner or oven for cooking.
Change your air-conditioner filter regularly.
- Eric Fleischauer
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