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Knoxville customers voice concerns to TVA board members

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WATE) - More than 30 people across the state traveled to Chattanooga on Friday to speak during TVA's board meeting. Some are upset about their high utility bills and want answers.

Laura Humphrey is a single mom of two and made the trip from Knoxville. Her utility bill is over $200, which is a payment she says is difficult to make.

"Sometimes low-income families have to choose whether to heat or eat, and that's not fair," said Humphrey.

Stephen Smith, the executive director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also spoke during the public comment period. He wanted change after reading a recent report from Synapse Energy Economics. It said TVA's residential customers have seen steady increases while industrial customers benefited from price cuts since 2011.

"We are not proposing an increase. As a matter of fact, if you look over the last five years, the average rate has gone down two percent" said John Thomas, CFO of TVA.

Thomas said it has lower electric rates than 70 percent of the top 100 utilities in America. He said the corporation is actually looking to change the billing to minimize dramatic spikes, especially during the colder and warmer months.

"If we had a certain amount of it being fixed, then people's bills would not have gone up as much," he said.

As they go up, Smith felt people's money is funding lavish spending by TVA executives. His organization said they bought fancy jets and a Mercedes Benz edition helicopter worth an estimated $40 million.

"The type of aircraft we use for economic development efforts is the same as others in the industry use," said Thomas.

TVA will go to the local power companies and decide what the first step will be to transition to a different rate structure. Thomas said then they will bring their recommendation to the board later this year.


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