published Friday, September 17th, 2010

TVA blueprint calls for less coal, more nuclear, gas and efficiency

  • photo
    Staff File Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press The TVA building from the 8th floor of the EPB building.

The Tennessee Valley Authority could shut down more than one-third of its coal-fired power plants and add more nuclear, gas and renewable generation to make up for any shortfall in power generation, according to a blueprint released Thursday.

In a draft of its integrated resource plan, which covers the next 20 years, TVA planners also said the utility could cut the growth in its peak power demand by up to 6,000 megawatts — or more than 15 percent — by time-of-day pricing, energy audits and incentives for power conservation.

The preferred choices emerging from TVA’s most comprehensive plan in 15 years suggest that the nation’s biggest government utility should limit the use of coal, which now fuels more than 60 percent of TVA’s power generation.

In its place, TVA could nearly triple its use of natural gas and add the equivalent of four more reactors to the six nuclear units it now operates and one it is finishing at the Watts Bar Nuclear Plant near Spring City, Tenn.

TVA also is considering programs to significantly boost generation from wind, solar and biomass while promoting more energy conservation.

The recommendations stem from a yearlong study of future alternatives for TVA, which supplies electricity to more than 9 million consumers in seven Southeastern states.

TVA Senior Vice President Van Wardlaw said the study updates TVA’s last integrated resource plan, completed in 1995, and will guide TVA “toward a cleaner and more secure energy future, relying more on nuclear power and energy efficiency and less on coal.”

Find out more

TVA will conduct public hearings on the proposed Integrated Resource Plan

* Oct. 5 in Bowling Green, Ky.

* Oct. 7 in Olive Branch, Miss.

* Oct. 13 in Knoxville

* Oct. 14 in Huntsville, Ala.

TVA President Tom Kilgore outlined a similar vision to the TVA board in August, pledging to make TVA the nation’s leader in developing more nuclear power and the utility leader in the Southeast in promoting energy efficiency.

The draft plan outlined Thursday will be discussed at public hearings in October. The TVA board is scheduled to identify its preferred alternative from the blueprint by next spring.

Gary Brinkworth, a senior manager for TVA who helped work on the integrated resource plan for the past year, said the three most favorable alternatives included in the study will be tested in coming months. The plan is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate economic, regulatory and consumer choices, he said.

Coal casualties

Regulatory restrictions proposed for carbon, smog and mercury emissions, if fully adopted, could lead TVA to idle 4,700 megawatts of coal-fired capacity as soon as 2015, Brinkworth said.

“With such regulations, it’s just not cost effective to install the required maximum available control technologies on many of our older units,” he said.

TVA recently announced plans to shut down 1,000 megawatts of coal generation by closing units at its Widows Creek, John Sevier and Shawnee Fossil Plants within the next five years.

The new plan outlines some alternatives that would also idle, or “lay-up,” most of TVA’s oldest coal units, including those at Johnsonville in West Tennessee, Colbert in North Alabama and other units at John Sevier in upper East Tennessee.

Environmental groups who support more air pollution limits on coal plants welcomed TVA’s plans, although they urged TVA to do even more to promote conservation and efficiency.

“Unfortunately, using the term ‘lay-up’ leaves the option open for these (coal) plants to be brought back on-line in the future,” said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and a member of the panel that helped review the plan recommendations. “These dirty, inefficient power plants need to be shut down once and for all as we transition to cleaner sources of energy.”

Smith said TVA should do even more to promote conservation to limit the need for what he said were “high-risk” nuclear power plants for more generation. Tennessee has the highest per capita residential use of electricity in the country and five neighboring states are among the top eight in electricity consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

New energy sources

TVA planners don’t plan to build any new conventional coal plants, but one alternative is to build a plant with integrated gasification combined cycle, or IGCC, which uses synthetic gas from coal for up to 500 megawatts of power.

TVA’s preferred alternatives in the plan suggest the agency could boost its total natural gas-fired capacity from 7,500 megawatts up to 20,700 megawatts of gas-fired capacity by 2030.

The plan also suggested TVA could add renewable energy from wind, solar and biomass up to 1,200 megawatts — an amount equal to one of TVA’s nuclear reactors.

Brinkworth said TVA also has begun looking for sites for a possible pumped storage plant similar to the Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Facility just west of Chattanooga. Such a facility, which stores water atop a mountain in a manmade lake on, acts like a giant battery to help TVA produce power when it is most in demand.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340. Follow him on Twitter at

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Should TVA use more nuclear alternatives to generate power?

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whatever said...

Sounds like they're finally getting back to where they were going before the 80s interrupted.

September 17, 2010 at 12:19 a.m.
KWVeteran said...

With electric rates increasing 28% since just March, I would hope that some sort of plan gets put in place that would add at least some degree of stabilization to prices.

September 17, 2010 at 8:05 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

A recipe for disaster. One day America will be so poor, that it's infrastructural will crumble. Remember Chernobyl? How about Three Mile Island?

September 17, 2010 at 8:49 a.m.
mrredskin said...

tax payer you're an ignorant tool.

why is this article just now being posted? this information was relayed to news outlets more than two weeks ago.

September 17, 2010 at 9:13 a.m.
sideviews said...

Tom Kilgore outlined the vision last month, but this is a more complete draft version of the Integrated Resource Plan. It expands the initial 1,000 megawatts of canceled coal plants up to a possible 4,700 megawatts and introduces for the first time the idea of another pumped storage plant, an IGCC plant and much more in energy efficiency. Read the report and you will lots of new information and next month the chance for the public to react at public hearings.

September 17, 2010 at 11:08 a.m.
whatever said...

Remember Chernobyl?

Chernobyl was a result of

A) untrained personnel b) unauthorized procedures c) a reactor design not used in the US

C is the reason it won't be repeated in the US, we won't be building anything like it.

How about Three Mile Island?

a) again untrained personnel b) poor interface design c) caused no perceptible injury to anybody.

Both of the two prior causes are correctable, and have been. And if you realize how much pollution has been released by coal plants since Three Mile Island caused everybody to get all jittery, you'd think how much more injury is attributable to them than nuclear.

Just because the consequences of burning coal aren't obvious doesn't mean they aren't real.

September 17, 2010 at 12:19 p.m.
Sailorman said...

well put whatever but be careful - you wouldn't want to be accused of being rational about nuke power

September 17, 2010 at 2:13 p.m.
whatever said...

Why, just because I'd have spent the stimulus and the bank bailout money on construction of nuclear power plants???

September 17, 2010 at 2:26 p.m.
bd64ud said...

The concern is that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has 90% of its salaries paid for by the plant operators and is so corrupted by lobbyists that it cannot regulate. e.g. you can't fire the boss.

September 18, 2010 at 2:44 p.m.
whatever said...

I'm willing to revamp it.

September 18, 2010 at 3:20 p.m.

Is there something wrong with this picture of an anti-competitive federal agency trying to reprise the grand FDR scheme of federal control of all electricity in the U.S.?

Two major points are missing; the TVA still believes it is comparable to an investor-owned electric utility. It wants us to believe it is a one size fits all utility that can only be managed by the huge and non-transparent TVA.

That is why TVA must become as separable as the seven states under TVA control. TVA crosses border after border, county line after county line applying its own loose interpretation of the TVA Act but applying those rules to all 9 million citizens in TVA territory. All without a single approval of any elected official in any of the seven states.

If the various investor-owned electric utilities in the surrounding areas took on the responsibility of running TVA power production, you can be sure there would be accountability for the kinds of gross mistakes TVA has made. That accountability includes approvals of public service commissions in each state and of elected state and local officials.

The other missing point is that TVA completely leaves out their most important customer, the ratepayers. It is they who must pay for every waste, start and stop program, one like the Green Power Switch which is nothing more than a donation program without substance.

Ernest Norsworthy

September 18, 2010 at 3:23 p.m.
whatever said...

Maybe we'd be better if they were all like Enron, right?

September 18, 2010 at 3:27 p.m.
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