Energy costs are a big part of budgets for everyone, including our rural electric cooperatives and their members. To save money, many homeowners have invested in efficiency measures such as weather stripping, insulation and efficient lighting. They also keep an eye on their thermostats.
Even before the power arrives at your home, your local electric cooperative is also working hard to keep costs down because power costs are a huge part of our budgets, too.
Tennessee’s cooperatives purchase electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority. Every utility receiving power from TVA — co-ops and municipal electric systems — pays the same price for power. However, the cost to safely deliver it to your home varies quite a bit. Substations, transformers and lines have to be built and maintained. Reaching rural parts of the state, where most co-op members live, requires more substations and longer lines than in cities.
Tennessee’s co-ops cover the state — from the suburbs to the most isolated mountaintops. We’ve built more than 86,000 miles of high-voltage electric lines to serve our members. The vast area we cover increases our cost to deliver power.
Despite those challenges, operating costs for nonprofit electric co-ops in Tennessee are, on average, much lower than anywhere else in the U.S. Consider this fact: For every dollar spent on electricity, less than 25 cents stays at your local electric cooperative to pay for building and maintaining the system that delivers electric power to your home or business.
The balance — more than 75 cents — goes directly to TVA to pay our electric bill. Tennessee’s member-owned cooperatives run your electric system with costs that are 17 percent lower than the national average. Outside the Tennessee Valley, about 36 cents of every dollar is spent delivering energy.
While keeping our operating costs low, we have a long history of meeting our members’ needs. We provide incentives that help members lower their electric bills: heat pump loans, home energy evaluations, rebates on water heaters and many more. Many cooperatives promote (and sometimes give away) lighting alternatives that can reduce your bill.
Think about this: You don’t find many businesses that want you to use less of their products. But conserving electricity is something about which we’re quite serious, and our efforts are paying off: Average monthly energy use for Tennessee residents has fallen 16 percent since 2010.
Even with our efforts, there is always room for improvement. We can’t control the cost of power from TVA, and we can’t control how much you use. Lifestyle and behavior play a big role in your energy use.
Some families can’t afford energy-efficiency improvements, and funding is limited, especially in rural areas. Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are exploring all available options to help rural homeowners receive low-cost funds for improvements. As nonprofit cooperatives, we’re accountable to our members on how the cooperative is operated. That’s one reason our cost to deliver power is low.
We’re always looking at ways to improve how we operate, keeping reliability high and costs low. Without a doubt, the best savings come from the kilowatt-hour we never deliver. If you don’t use it, we don’t have to carry it over the wires, and a power plant doesn’t have to generate it. Low cost, zero emissions and guaranteed to lower your bill and our costs.
There are always opportunities to use less, and you can always call your local electric cooperative for advice. Efficient operations from your co-op and efficient energy use from you — those are solutions that help all of us.