A new road map for the Tennessee Valley Authority envisions slower growth in power demand but the need for the federal utility to be more flexible in responding to more variable energy demands.
A draft version of the new long-range power plan for the next decade, which TVA released Friday, projects slower growth in both the population and electricity demand in the Valley.
But the plan envisions that TVA will still have to be able to meet more variable demands as more consumers turn to the sun and wind for some of their power and the marketplace of the 7-state region continues to change. Electricity demand is likely to be boosted by more electric-charged vehicles but curbed by energy efficiency and consumer-generated power.
"The study indicates the need for a more flexible approach because distributed energy is likely to grow with more consumers installing solar panels or wind generators, but they still will be needing power when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.
TVA had been updating its long-range power plans every five years, but changes in the market have led the utility to move to update its previous plan, which was finalized three years ago.
The need for a more flexible power grid and system is helping drive both TVA's decision to build a new $300 million power operations system near Georgetown and its decision Thursday to phase out two more major base load coal plants over the next four years at the Paradise plant in Kentucky and the Bull Run plant in Oak Ridge.
"Those large units at Paradise and Bull Run, along with not being as cost efficient as our other sources of power, are not as flexible to respond to changing power demand," Brooks said.
TVA President Bill Johnson said the half-century-old coal plants were designed to operate at full capacity about 80 percent of the time and they can't be quickly activated or easily provide varying levels of power.
"To get these plants to run on Thursday, you have to start them on Tuesday," Johnson said in explaining why TVA decided to phase out the plants.
The new power control center in Georgetown offers a more secure location and the new facility will allow TVA to integrate new equipment along with fiber optic lines along TVA's transmission network for better data collection, time-of-day pricing options and other more interactive distributed energy plans.
In the 237-page draft version of the new Integrated Resource Plan released Friday, TVA projects:
» New capacity will be needed, even in the scenarios predicting the slowest growth, in part to replace expiring or retiring capacity. But TVA's total power sales still remain below the peak reached in 2008 before the Great Recession hit the region and many major power users shut down.
» Solar expansion plays a substantial role, driven by its attractive energy value beginning around the mid-2020 time frame.
» Varying levels of natural gas, battery storage, and demand response are added depending on strategic focus to ensure reliability and provide flexibility.
» No wind or hydro resources are added by TVA, indicating that solar backed up by gas or storage is the more optimal choice.
» No major nuclear, coal or combined cycle natural gas plants are added, except in one case where high-cost Small Modular Reactors are promoted for resiliency.
» TVA's reserve margin, which provides readily available power for unplanned events, has historically been about 15 percent but the new study recommends TVA add to its reserve margins.
Al Armendariz, deputy regional director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said projections of increased solar and other renewable resource generation "are consistent with a least-cost approach for keeping electricity prices low.
"Recent announcements to add solar projects in Tennessee and Alabama show that businesses are interested in bringing jobs to the TVA territory and boosting the local economy if the utility is a national leader in these innovative technologies," he said. "We encourage the public, especially families and businesses that want TVA to accelerate cleaning up its electric grid to get involved in this IRP process."
Brooks said the TVA also wants to gain more public input and ideas for the long-range plan and will conduct a series of public hearings to allow ratepayers and other groups to voice their opinions.
Since February 2018, TVA has already worked with an IRP Working Group and the Regional Energy Resource Council to develop the draft. As part of the study, TVA prepared a programmatic Environmental Impact Study to assess the natural, cultural and socioeconomic impacts associated with the long-range power plan.
Contact Dave Flessner at email@example.com or at 757-6340.
Public hearings on new plan
TVA will discuss and take public comments about its draft integrated resource plan at a series of public hearings in the next six weeks, including
• Feb. 19 from 4:30-6 p.m. in Murfreesboro as part of a public meeting and listening session with the Regional Energy Resource Council, in the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1200 Conference Center Boulevard.
• Public webinar from 11-11:45 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 26. Info at www.tva.gov/Environment/Environmental-Stewardship/Integrated-Resource-Plan.
• March 20 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. in Chattanooga at Battle Academy, 1601 Market Street.