Cold weather heats up TVA power use

Cold weather heats up TVA power use

January 30th, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

A TVA power station is visible from the air on Raccoon Mountain near Chattanooga.

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

The recession and its aftermath have cooled TVA's industrial power sales, but frigid temperatures this month continue to heat up residential electricity usage to wintertime records.

To heat homes, offices and factories during Wednesday's subfreezing temperatures across the Tennessee Valley, TVA likely set its second one-day record for power consumption this month.

Shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday with temperatures in TVA's 7-state region averaging only 6 degrees Fahrenheit, the 9 million people in TVA's 7-state region consumed 32,768 megawatts, just shy of the wionter peak set last Friday at 33,353 megawatts when temperatures averaged 7 degrees in the Valley. But only an hour later on Wednesday, peak demand rose again to reach another near-record high of 32,815 megawatts when temperatrues averaged 10 degrees but many businesses and factories began operation for the day.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said the federal utility met the near-record demand without having to interrupt power to any customers, including more than 1,200 which are under contracts that allow TVA to limit power during high-demand periods.

"Our units performed well with all of our nuclear and hydro units at full generation and we were able to purchase more than 3,000 megawatts of power at the peak," Hopson said.

In previous power peaks on Jan. 7 and Jan. 24, TVA had to limit its power delivery to some of its biggest customers which are on interruptible contracts. But Hopson said TVA enjoyed maximum production Wednesday from its 29 power-generating dams, its six operating nuclear reactors and most of the units at its 11 coal-fired plants and handful of natural gas power plants.

January is likely to end up being one of, if not the biggest month ever for power sales in TVA's 81-year history, even though TVA forecast for all of fiscal 2014 that power sales would be down by about 4.6 percent. From its peak in 2007, TVA power sales are down in normal weather periods by about 10 percent due to the installation of more efficient appliances and heaters and the loss of some major industrial customers. Last May, TVA's biggest direct-served customer -- U.S. Enrichment Corp., -- closed its uranium processing facility in Paducah, Ky.

TVA set an all-time record for the most electricity sold in a day on Jan 7 when the utility delivered 703 gigawatts of power to its customers, but that record could have been eclipsed Wednesday once all the figures are tabulated by TVA. Also in Janaury, TVA recorded its fourth biggest power sales day in history on Jan. 6 and the fifth biggest power sales day ever on Tuesday. For the entire month, TVA is likely to end up with five of the top 10 all-time top power usage days.

"It's been an extraordinarily cold month over most of the Valley," Hopson said.

In the TVA region, 56.4 percent of households heat with electricity, compared with 35.2 percent of home that use natural gas for hat and 8.4 percent that heat with propane, according to a 2012 survey of 9,133 Tennessee Valley households conducted for TVA.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.