TVA, PVEC and the new “Grid Access Charge”

TVA, PVEC and the new “Grid Access Charge”

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a federally owned corporation that produces electricity for Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states. TVA generates the electricity that Powell Valley Electric Cooperative then buys and re-sells, or “distributes” to its members, and a good portion of the bills we pay each month goes back to TVA.

Our co-op is regulated by TVA in one major way, TVA can approve or deny rates and programs that PVEC might want to implement. TVA is also able to propose their own rate changes that are passed on to our co-op, a process through which TVA involves the public by collecting written comments and allowing a public speaking period at their board meetings. Ultimately, the true extent of the relationship between our co-op and TVA is defined in a written contract that this group of members has been unable to access thus far.

In May of 2018, the TVA Board of Directors passed a new “Grid Access Charge” that local power companies, including our co-op, will have to pay. It’s a complicated rate structure that allows TVA to shift the majority of their cost recovery from charging a volumetric rate (based on how much is used) to a fixed (mandatory) charge. If this rate structure is passed on to PVEC’s membership, either our rates will go up, or we will receive a monthly fixed charge on our individual bills. At some co-ops in Tennessee members are already paying a fixed charge of  $30 before they even turn on their lights! TVA has said that this “Grid Access Charge” will be revenue neutral (meaning it won’t raise our bills), but TVA’s own assessment concluded that those of us trying to conserve energy, or other members on fixed incomes, are going to pay higher bills because of this rate change.

PVEC Member Voices is exploring the ways we might be able to influence TVA as a group of engaged co-op members. One way we might be able to do this is through the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association. TVPPA is regional trade group representing all of TVA’s 154 distributor power companies, including electric co-oops, that meets with TVA regularly to negotiate policies like the Grid Access Charge. If PVEC members are able to ask our co-op representatives to act as stronger advocates for our interests in TVPPA meetings, or if a designated PVEC member were able to attend, we could potentially have more success in preventing harmful policies like the Grid Access Charge.