Higher Energy Bills on the Way Again Due to Cold Weather

February 5, 2018

Electric power bills for residents across our region for energy used in December were much higher than normal as a result of the extreme winter temperatures we have experienced. Judging from the local weather patterns, customers will continue to see significant increases in their utility bills for energy used in January.

“We frequently receive calls from customers who say they have not changed the temperature on their thermostat, but their bill has increased,” said Marlene Bannon, Manager of the City of Oak Ridge Utility Business Office. “Although you may keep the thermostat temperature consistent, your HVAC unit has to work harder to heat the air when temperatures drop, therefore using more power.”

The “degree-days of heating” is used as a measure for how hard your unit has to work to keep your home at a set temperature. In Oak Ridge during December 2017, there were 591 degree days of heating -- almost twice the number from November. January’s numbers are even higher, according to the City’s electric department. “January had 803 degree-days of heating, a 36% increase from December,” Bannon explained. “This means that heating units worked even harder in January than they did in December and customers will likely see a further increase in their power bills.”

Some believe that utilities charge more for the power needed this time of year. The cost of power can vary from month to month because of the price of the fuel that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) uses to create the power. The last few months, however, power rates have been very stable. “Rates in November and December were identical,” Bannon added. “Electric rates in January were actually slightly lower than December on a per-unit basis, but this small decrease is expected to be overwhelmed on an average customer’s bill by higher usage.”

These higher bills will strain the budgets of many in our community. Customers who would like to help can give to Project Safe, a program that uses monetary donations to offset utility bills for families in need. Project Safe is administered through ADFAC, Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties. Donations made through the Oak Ridge program stay in our community.

Many energy saving tips can be found at www.energyright.com. City utility customers are also encouraged to look at the e-Score program offered by TVA through the City of Oak Ridge. E-Score offers a free self-energy audit in addition to providing incentives for specific energy related improvements to the home. For other billing questions, customers can call the Oak Ridge Utility Business Office at (865) 425-3400.