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TN Small Businesses Oppose TVA's Proposed Fee Hike

Small-business owners such as The Tap House in Chattanooga say TVA's proposed rate hike will hurt their business, and add that it's often watering holes like theirs where business is generated through conversation around the bar. (The Tap House/Facebook)
Small-business owners such as The Tap House in Chattanooga say TVA's proposed rate hike will hurt their business, and add that it's often watering holes like theirs where business is generated through conversation around the bar. (The Tap House/Facebook)
May 8, 2018

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – Tennessee business owners are gathering today at the Tennessee Valley Authority offices in Chattanooga to let the public agency know they they oppose the rate proposal it will vote on later this week.

Earlier this year, TVA proposed changes to the rate structure that will increase mandatory fees for customers. A handful of large industrial customers are exempt from the fixed fees.

Arborist Jon Nessle owns The Ornamentor in Chattanooga and says it's not fair for customers to pay more before they even flip a switch.

"I don't understand why TVA would not incentivize large businesses that use a lot of energy, to use more efficiency in their energy," he says. "Small businesses are already forced to do that. We're already forced to be as efficient as we can be, just out of expenses, just out of cost of operation."

According to the Tennessee Small Business Alliance, the proposed changes would cost the average customer in total $350 more a year. In a statement, TVA says the proposed fee changes would maintain lower rates for residential power, and that TVA customer rates are lower than those in 70 percent of the country.

Chris Calhoun owns The Tap House and Brew Market in Chattanooga. As a part of Tennessee's growing craft-beverage industry, he's concerned about the impact the rate increase will have on small businesses such as breweries and craft-beer bars.

"We've had a pretty good growth rate, I know, over the last several years, where small businesses have brought in a lot of people, and I think a lot of visitors to the area," he notes. "That's what they're looking for. They're not coming here to visit larger, industrial places."

The fixed fees TVA proposes would be added to the bill before any electricity is used each month. Nessle says it's unfair.

"TVA is a publicly owned utility," Nessle adds. "This seems to penalize the very people you're trying to help. When you have small businesses that are trying to support these large businesses, the first place to start is to raise their rates? That seems like a penalty."

The TVA Board is to vote on the proposed rate change Thursday. The Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TennSEIA), Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the NAACP also will voice their opposition to the proposed rate change this week.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN