According to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association, one in six American families is behind on their electric bills.
One reason for higher ancillary costs is, among other things, additional fuel surcharges based on the customer’s electricity consumption in kilowatt hours.
Joshua Bills, a commercial energy specialist at the Mountain Association, said fees fluctuate in response to the price of fuel, noting that utilities are using the surcharge to pass the buck on to ratepayers.
“They pass those costs right on to customers as soon as they get them,” explained Bills. “It kind of reduces the risk to the benefit of volatility and burdens clients with all that volatility.”
He pointed out that switching to energy-efficient lightbulbs, upgrading heating and cooling systems, and running household appliances each month off-peak are all ways to reduce consumption and lower the monthly surcharge.
The US Energy Information Administration forecasts that electricity prices will continue to rise into winter amid global instability and continued growth in power demand.
Cara Cooper, coordinator of the Kentuckians for Energy Democracy group, said public comment periods are some of the best tools people have to control how energy prices are determined and what types of energy sources companies should prioritize.
“Every day the Public Service Commission in Kentucky makes some really important decisions related to how we regulate our electricity supply,” noted Cooper.
Research shows that between June 2021 and July 2022, states with existing solar and wind infrastructure experienced smaller rate increases than states without renewable energy options. Bills stressed that counties in the Commonwealth are beginning to take steps towards clean energy, but progress has been slow.
“Kentucky still has a long way to go compared to other states,” admitted Bills. “We have quite an influx of proposals for commercial solar. But across all of those proposals, very little groundbreaking has happened yet.”
Merchant Solar is solar power funded by investors and sold to utility companies. Bills noted that the Inflation Reduction Act provides incentives to increase energy efficiency and clean energy.
Next year, small businesses and households in Kentucky could be eligible for federal assistance to reduce their electricity consumption.
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