3Qs: Bill Johnson, TVA chairman, president, CEO

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

Bill Johnson was named chairman, president and CEO of the Tennessee Valley Authority last November, replacing Tom Kilgore. Johnson previously was chairman and CEO of Progress Energy.
He was introduced at last week’s annual Northeast Mississippi Economic Forecast Conference. He spoke to Daily Journal Business Editor Dennis Seid at the conference and later spoke to the Journal’s editorial board. Among the topics Johnson spoke about was TVA’s work in environmental sustainability. Here are excerpts from those interviews:

Q. What are TVA’s overall renewable energy goals?
A. There are several parts to that.
First, retiring older coal plants that are too inefficient and really too old to add new pollution controls.
Second, installing more controls on a number of coal plants and to add more gas units, which is more efficient.
We’re also into solar, wind and nuclear.
If you look at our environmental profile, we look a lot better than we did five years ago, and we’ll continue that trend. Folks want two things – low rates and cleaner energy. There’s a little tension there, so you have to find that balance. We want low rates to attract people and jobs to the valley so people can afford their bills, and we want to do it in an ever cleaner way.

Q. What is TVA’s plans for coal use?
A. In this country and in this region with TVA, we will be burning coal for a long time. Coal is an abundant resource, it’s a good fuel source and what we have to do is use it wisely and use it more cleanly. We’re using less coal today than we were five years ago, and five years from now we’ll probably be using less coal than we are today.
But for the foreseeable future – and we’re talking 30 to 40 years – we’ll be using coal. We really don’t have much of a choice.
Q. Update us on TVA’s nuclear energy component.
A. Two pieces of that.
First, it’s making sure the existing plants run and run well. We’ve had some challenges, but we’re focused on excellence and excellent performance. But if you’re going to be in the nuclear business, excellence is the only standard.
We’re finishing Watts Barr II. There’s a lot of scrutiny on that – are we on budget, are we on schedule?
We have a very good person running that. … And on the current budget and schedule, I think we’ll be under on both. The current schedule is second half of 2015 most likely.