OUR OPINION: Consumer input sought as TVA resets its focus

Tennessee Valley Authority technology leaders, confronted with lower-than-expected natural gas prices, slowing load increases and environmental concerns, have reopened systemwide discussion of TVA’s integrated resource plan for electricity generation.

The second of two on-site meetings is scheduled at 7 p.m. Wednesday to discuss an update of TVA’s long-term resources plan at MLGW University, 4949 Raleigh-LaGrange Road, in Memphis. A similar meeting was held two weeks ago in Knoxville.

The resource plan in place has been overtaken by changes in the energy business, including virtually flat growth in electric demand (at 1 percent per year), which requires adjustments in how TVA will generate power and how it will keep rates competitively low.

Joe Hoagland, vice president and chief technology officer for TVA, said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon, TVA has excess generating capacity because of the low load growth. Under a scenario of 3 percent to 4 percent growth TVA would need to plan for additional generating capacity every year.

Under the new scenario TVA will look at idling even more of its coal plants more quickly and re-examine how many clean-energy generation facilities like windfarms, nuclear plants and solar facilities it should build.

Hoagland and other TVA officials want input from customers. Customers may attend the Wednesday night meeting in person, register and submit comments or participate through webinars, at www.tva.gov/irp for live.

Written comments can be submitted online at www.tva.gov/irp and via email at IRP@tva.links.gov or can be mailed to Charles P. Nicholson, Tennessee Valley Authority, 400 W. Summit Hill Drive, WT 11D, Knoxville, TN 37902.

TVA, like most large organizations, does not move quickly. Work on the plan won’t be completed until the spring of 2015.

Interestingly, by that time it’s expected that TVA will be ready to bring on line the Unit 2 Reactor at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, another form of clean energy in the study, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has reported. The newspaper also reported in late October that TVA is studying the option of finishing its incomplete Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant in Hollywood, Ala., and “building a new type of smaller modular reactor in Oak Ridge. The power study plan is likely to recommend which, if either … should be pursued in the next decade.”

A public response to those plans would be included in the comments sought from Wednesday’s meeting.