When Jack Simmons announced his retirement from the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association this summer after 14 years as its president, the board of the Chattanooga-based association interviewed a variety of candidates from across the country.
Ultimately, the board decided to elevate one of TVPPA's own staffers, Doug Peters, to head the TVA distributors group and its affiliated insurance, training and power generating businesses.
Greg Williams, general manager for Appalachian Electric Cooperative in New Market, Tennessee, and chairman of TVPPA, said the search committee "began its work with a very impressive roster of candidates from inside and outside the Valley. The quality of those applicants made it a robust competition, but Doug's 16 years at TVPPA and 18 years prior at TVA set him apart," Williams says.
Peters is a 57-year-old electrical engineer who worked at four nuclear plants at TVA and later helped train many of the linemen who keep the power flowing across TVA's 7-state region. But Peters is not a typical engineer, focused only on solving individual problems.
In his role in nuclear licensing at TVA and technical training for local power companies across the Valley, Peters has had to negotiate and mediate between a variety of competing parties. While still working at TVA, he earned his MBA at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where many of his colleagues thought he was as much of a salesman or a preacher as he was an engineer.
At TVPPA, he has served as vice president of Distributors Insurance Co., a wholly owned subsidiary of the association, and helped prepare plans to build a federally backed smart grid and distributor-owned generation for Seven States Power Corp., another TVPPA subsidiary. The smart grid project ultimately wasn't funded, but it did help launch other partnerships among TVA distributors, including Seven States Power which bought, and for a while owned, a combined natural gas power plant.
A native of Blissfield, Michigan, Peters moved with his parent in 1972 to Rossville, Georgia, when he was in middle school. Other than his years at Georgia Tech earning his electrical engineering degree and a year after graduation working for Raytheon in California, Peters has stayed in the Chattanooga area.
In his new role, Peters oversees an $8.5 million-a-year budget at TVPPA, which represents 105 municipal utilities and 49 cooperative utilities which buy wholesale power from TVA. The association acts as both a traditional trade association for the TVA distributors and an organized interface for contract and rates negotiations between TVA as the wholesale power supplier and the local power companies that contract with TVA to buy its power and resell it to retail users.
"It's a challenging and exciting time now for public power, and our role is especially critical now as we move into a new era of distributed power," Peters says. "If TVPPA didn't exist, I think TVA would have to create something very similar."