The dog days of summer will take their biggest bite so far this year today with the mercurcy expected to hit 97 degrees and the heat index likely to reach triple digits.
But TVA President Tom Kilgore isn't breaking a sweat about supplying enough power to keep offices and homes cool across the Tennessee Valley. The cooler economy is keeping electricity demand down again this summer even as more solar and wind generation provide more energy.
"It's hot early, but we've got plenty of capacity even with all of our air conditioners running to keep things cool," Mr. Kilgore said last week.
In June, when 86 is the average high in Chattanooga, the temperatures rose into the 90s on 19 days, and weather forecasters expect continued hot temperatures through the rest of the summer.
"It's been hotter than normal this summer that's likely to continue," said Gregg Cole, a hydro meteorological technician with the National Weather Service office in Morristown, Tenn. "We've had a lot of high-pressure systems over the Southeast so far this summer, and that creates a lot of hotter temperatures."
The heat index that combines the temperature and humidity to measure how hot it feels outside is projected to top 100 degrees today.
A colder winter and hotter summer so far have boosted TVA power sales over last year's. But power consumption in the Tennessee Valley remains below the 2007 and 2008 levels after an unprecedented 7 percent drop in TVA power sales last year due to the soft economy.
With increased conservation and efforts to cut peak consumption, most utilities are approaching the hot weeks ahead with more capacity than in the past.
Consumers also are paying more attention to energy efficiency with federal tax incentives for home insulation and energy-efficient appliances and the addition of new "smart meters" by EPB in Chattanooga to display how much energy is being consumed at every moment. Consumers also have an extra reason to dial back their themostats this month after TVA increased its July rates to consumers by 2.3 percent due to the fourth consecutive month of higher fuel cost adjustments.
The North American Electric Reliability Corp., a group of electrical grid operators in the United States, projects summertime power demand in the United States will be down 2.2 percent this year because of the economy, while wind and other renewable energy sources should be up about 18 percent this year over last.
"Depressed electricity demand due to a slow economic recovery continues to be the major driver affecting bulk power system reliability during the upcoming summer months," said Gerry Cauley, president of the North American Electric Reliability Corp.
TVA's record demand of 33,482 megawatts was reached on Aug. 16, 2007, when temperatures across the biggest cities in the Tennessee Valley averaged 102 degrees.
Mr. Kilgore said he doesn't expect the power peak in the valley this year to get within even 10 percent of that record "and there is more power-generating capacity now" than three years ago.