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Is Power Board plan for peak-time billing fair?

Staff Report • Mar 4, 2013 at 9:51 AM

The Johnson City Power Board is months away from the start of billing customers based on their peak-time energy use. In accordance with a program implemented by the Tennessee Valley Authority, JCPB will begin charging a higher rate for electricity used during peak periods of high demand.

Peak-use periods change according to the season but typically range from 5-11 a.m. in the winter months to 2-8 p.m. in the summer.

The JCPB is expected to begin peak-time billing in the fall. As Press staff writer Madison Mathews reported last week, the Power Board is still in negotiations with TVA administrators to determine what the retail customers will be charged for peak and non-peak times.

Power Board directors voted unanimously last spring to adopt a resolution to move ahead with the installation of advanced digital meters in preparation for the peak-time billing. Every JCPB customer’s bill will now be tallied using the so-called “smart meters.”

JCPB officials say the decision came after they investigated and dismissed complaints against the devices, including claims of health concerns. A number of customers continue to express opposition to the smart meters. One is Susanne Seiler of Gray, who told Mathews she also believes the Power Board’s new billing policy is going to cause inconveniences for families, particularly those on low and fixed incomes.

“I think that’s going to put crunches in people’s lives that they don’t need,” she said.

JCPB officials plan to launch a public relations campaign in the next few months to educate customers about peak-time billing. The campaign will include town hall meetings, paid advertisements and posts on social media.

Robert White, the Power Board’s chief public relations officer, compared the time-of-use energy policy to that of billing used by the cell phone industry. Many cell phone carriers allow unlimited minutes after a certain time to encourage customers, while charging customers a fee if they go over their allotted minutes.

White told Mathews last week that it costs more to produce energy during peak-use times, which means by spreading out one’s energy use, customers would see a reduction of their bills.

“If we’re not creating new peaks, we’re not getting billed from TVA because of our demand, then it helps us save costs and we’re asking you to help us do it,” he said. “If you’re doing it, it’s going to save you money. If not, it’s going to cost more to provide that energy during peak times during the summer and the winter.”

Tell us what you think. Is the Power Board’s plan to begin peak-time billing fair to its customers?

Send your comments to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717, or mailbag@johnsoncitypress.com. Please include your name, telephone number and address for verification.

We will print your responses on the Opinion pages in the coming weeks.

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