20-year TVA plan sees 30% coal cut

20-year TVA plan sees 30% coal cut

March 5th, 2011 by Pam Sohn in Business Around the Region

TVA PLANS

• Reducing coal-fired electricity production by up to 4,700 megawatts by 2017. Current coal production capacity is 14,573 megawatts.

• Increasing energy efficiency programs by 3,600 to 5,100 megawatts by 2020.

• Increasing nuclear generation by 1,150 to 5,900 megawatts from 2013 to 2029. Current capacity is 6,632 megawatts.

• Increasing renewable generation by up to 2,500 megawatts by 2020. Current capacity is 1,600 megawatts.

• Increasing pumped storage capacity by 850 megawatts between 2020 and 2024

• Increasing natural gas power generation by 900 to 9,300 megawatts between 2012 and 2029

• Preserve option to increase coal power production with carbon capture by up to 900 megawatts from 2025 to 2029.

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority could cut its coal-fired generation by nearly a third in the next six years under a blueprint of power options unveiled Friday.

The TVA strategic plan, developed over the past two years to guide how the federal utility develops future energy sources, calls for more nuclear power and energy conservation to meet future power needs with less coal generation.

But the 20-year blueprint doesn't deal with future electric rates or TVA jobs, according to Gary Brinkworth, senior manager for generation and portfolio optimization.

"This plan doesn't address that," he said.

Brinkworth and TVA's Van Wardlaw, executive vice president for enterprise relations, said the utility's integrated resource plan involved more than 3,000 modeling analyses. Those included future power needs, expected environmental regulation, anticipated power resources costs and a healthy dose of uncertainties such as weather and general risk.

The TVA officials say the plan, which cost $3 million, outlines initiatives over 20 years to "provide reliable, low-cost, cleaner electricity."

Among other things, it recommends doubling and possibly tripling already-planned reductions in coal-fired production, and preserving an option to find a way to generate power with carbon capture.

TVA has already announced plans to reduce its coal-fired generation by 1,000 megawatts by 2015 by idling units at its Widows Creek plant in Alabama, Jon Sevier plant in Tennessee and Shawnee plant in Kentucky. The plan calls for adding more coal cutbacks to bring the overall reduction in coal generation to at least 2,400 megawatts and as much as 4,700 megawatts by 2017.

The strategic plan will be formally presented to the TVA board of directors in April. It already has been filed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has pressured TVA for a decade to reduce its coal-fired air emissions.

"Curbing emissions is a goal for many utilities and industries across the nation, including TVA," TVA President and CEO Tom Kilgore said in a prepared statement.

About 2,650 people are employed in the utility's 11 fossil plants, TVA officials said.

Stephen Smith, director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said he is pleased the plan suggests reducing coal power production.

But Smith, who served on a 15-member review group, was critical that TVA plans to add only 900 megawatts in renewable-source production to the 1,600 megawatts it already buys from wind-power sources.

"The fact that the nation's largest public utility might plan to largely ignore the economic development and environmental benefits of renewable energy resources over the next 20 years is ridiculous. It's a clear indication of the steep learning curve that TVA still needs to climb," Smith said.

He also said TVA may push up electricity rates by planning more nuclear generation by finishing its Bellefonte plant, which TVA hopes to complete by 2020. Less nuclear power might be needed if TVA would push more on efficiency and conservation, Smith said.

Wardlaw said TVA's hydroelectric power program provides a good share of renewable energy. He also said the agency will be looking to find ways to modernize the power plants at TVA dams.