Church likes new rates

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, February 17, 2010

FRANKLIN—The Rev. Ed Pickup of Emmanuel Episcopal Church is looking forward to doing more outreach, thanks to the hundreds of dollars the church will save annually in electricity bills starting next month.

When the City Council approved the updated electric rate schedule for Franklin Power & Light customers last month, a new rate class for churches and synagogues was included. The new rate class doesn’t include a kilowatt demand charge, which is a charge based on a customer’s highest peak usage during any 30-minute interval during the billing period. The kW demand charge is used for certain commercial-rate classes.

“The peak load for the church does not occur when the city’s peak load may be, so we developed this rate to do away with the kW demand charge,” said Michael Stoneham, director of Franklin Power & Light.

Stoneham said the move placed the city in line with other utilities, including Dominion Virginia Power, which already had special rate classes for places of worship. The change was one that Pickup has been advocating for years.

“We were getting charged an electric bill based on our highest usage, which was always Sunday morning, and I thought that was particularly bad because we only use electricity like that one day a week—actually only about half of one day a week,” he said.

“A half a day a week was costing us a lot of money.”

While some churches had to pay the demand charge, other smaller churches are classified under a different commercial rate class, and weren’t subject to the charge.

Billing churches under a commercial rate is problematic. However, Stoneham said, billing churches under residential rates would also be problematic because most churches require more facilities, like bigger wires and more transformers than average residential customers.

Pickup said he expects his church to save more than $100 a month under the revised rates, which go into effect March 1.

“In the summertime, we will save approximately $135 a month and in the wintertime we’ll save about $116 a month not having the demand fee,” he said. “This will help us a lot.”

Considering Emmanuel Episcopal Church’s electricity bill can run as high as $1,000 a month in the summertime, the savings aren’t huge, but Pickup says the money will be used “to help other people and do ministry.”

“The money that you pay to the electric company is money that you can’t do ministry with, so I hope this will help us do better ministry in the community — not a whole lot — but some,” he said.

Churches or places of worship with more than one building served by separate meters are only eligible for the church and synagogue rate for the meter serving the building that houses the sanctuary or principal place of worship.

The revenue lost by relieving churches of the demand charge will be recovered through higher rates, Stoneham said.

Pickup said the new rate schedule for churches is “a good move.”

“I’m just glad that the City Council is working toward having churches treated the same way inside the city as they would be if they were located outside the city,” he said.