Powering Strong Communities

BrightRidge holds electric rates flat for a second year, continues coronavirus aid

Directors of Tennessee public power utility BrightRidge recently approved a Fiscal Year 2021 budget for the utility that holds electric rates flat for a second year in a row.

In addition, BrightRidge customers are realizing lower power bills due to lower than budgeted Tennessee Valley Authority fuel cost adjustment surcharges. TVA’s fuel cost adjustment accounts for the relative market cost of electricity depending on generation sources.

Meanwhile, Johnson City, Tenn.-based BrightRidge noted that it continues to realize $3.6 million in annual power cost savings thanks to a new TVA Partners program that provides reduced wholesale power costs as well as latitude to generate power locally outside of TVA in exchange for a 20-year power supply contract with TVA.

“Our Board of Directors keenly understand our regional economy has a long way to go before we achieve a full recovery,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said. “We will continue ongoing efforts to assist customers as best we can while remaining positioned to power the region as recovery continues.”

COVID-19 assistance

In all, a healthy financial position has allowed BrightRidge to temporarily suspend non-payment disconnections of customers since March amid several coronavirus related measures adopted to assist customers in response to the global pandemic.

BrightRidge and TVA partnered to double the level of assistance available to residential customers who may be struggling with their power bills due to economic uncertainty, providing up to $200,000 in funding for the Heisse Johnson Hand Up Fund. BrightRidge assisted 874 customers in 2019 through the Fund. BrightRidge also made 13,390 payment arrangements in 2019 to help customers pay overdue power bills.

BrightRidge, which recently invested $100,000 to assist local small businesses through the RegionAHEAD program, will also partner with TVA this fall for a $400,000 Home Uplift program that will help low- and moderate-income homeowners make energy efficiency improvements to their homes.

FY2020 electric sales revenue is projected to miss budget by $6.97 million due to mild weather and pandemic impacts, a 2.4 percent drop. BrightRidge is projecting FY2021 total operating revenue of $204.7 million, a 2.36 percent drop from FY2020. Average retail kilowatt hour charges are projected at $.10787 compared to $.10995 in FY2020.

Nonetheless, BrightRidge remains on target to fully fund ongoing capital reinvestment and maintenance of the electric system, scheduled at $8.9 million in FY2021, while payments in lieu of taxes to local governments are slated at $5.8 million. BrightRidge is by far the largest single taxpayer in Johnson City and Washington County.

“BrightRidge remains well positioned to continue powering the regional economy through expansion of essential electric and broadband networks,” Dykes said. “Obviously, given economic uncertainty, we expect staff to redouble efforts to manage costs while we continue to support our customers as much as possible.”

BrightRidge Broadband FY 2021 budget funds big push to add serviceable locations

Meanwhile, entering the third year rollout, BrightRidge Broadband has more than 17,000 serviceable locations and the company is undertaking a major push in the next 12 months to add 13,000 serviceable locations in its 2021 budget approved by the BrightRidge Board of Directors in late June.

Boones Creek and Gray will see in the biggest expansion of fiber in the next 12 months under the new budget.

BrightRidge Broadband has placed Washington County, Johnson City and Jonesborough at the forefront nationally of 10 GB served communities, with only a handful of US cities having 10 GB service widely available, BrightRidge noted.

In addition, the Town of Jonesborough was recently recognized by PC Magazine as a top 15 affordable community for remote workers thanks to BrightRidge Broadband.

The article also found that BrightRidge Broadband services among the most affordable among small towns with 1 GB speed services available.

The BrightRidge Broadband product is redundant with three connections to the Internet backbone just outside of Washington D.C. and Atlanta.

So far, BrightRidge has invested $38 million in its hybrid system, with fiber services offered in more dense urban areas and high-speed wireless service in more rural areas.

BrightRidge Broadband is projected to generate $3.3 million in operating revenue in FY 2021, with the company on target to achieve positive net income by FY 2024.