U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker put TVA on the spot Monday for its plans to place an increasing reliance on renewable energy and energy efficiency to meet long-range energy needs.
The senators held a round-table discussion at the University of Tennessee’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy where they questioned TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson on why TVA is putting more emphasis on renewables and energy efficiency in later stages of its 20-year Integrated Resources Plan.
Alexander said use of these energy sources adds cost for TVA, and he didn’t see why TVA should pursue them.
“I think our ratepayers and our jobs are better served when TVA sticks to its mission of low-cost power instead of chasing the latest energy fad,” he said. “The goal of TVA is not to build windmills; it’s to provide low-cost electricity.”
Corker questioned the benefit of TVA buying power from a planned 700-mile transmission line that Clean Line Energy Partners is building to channel electricity from wind farms in the Midwest to Tennessee. Johnson said TVA will only buy electricity from this source if it is cost-effective and reliable.
TVA wants to have a variety of energy sources available and keep its plan flexible so as to adjust to conditions and maintain the lowest rates and highest reliability it can, Johnson said.
In March, TVA released a draft version of its resource plan, and. Johnson expects the final version to be ready for the TVA board in August. The plan models a range of possible scenarios for how demand, economic conditions, regulations and other factors will evolve over the next two decades and looks for the strategies that would work best. The plan calls for increasing use of renewable resources, such as more solar by the mid-2020s and more wind-generated power by the late 2020s.
The plan is not set in stone, but is a guide, Johnson said.
“I’m sure it won’t unfold over the next 20 years exactly as we think, but it’s a good directional document,” he said.
Johnson said the plan takes into account that the costs of renewable sources are decreasing, and power storage technology is advancing.
“We will not do anything just because it seems like a good idea or we just want to do it,” he said. “The way the IRP works, you are projecting things 15 to 20 years from now and with current projections some of the renewables are going to be more cost-effective than conventional resources.”
Corker asked about the impact on TVA decisions of the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which requires states to craft plans for reducing carbon emissions from coal plants.
“We do have concerns that sometimes administrations will pursue romantic things that have nothing whatsoever to do with producing low-cost, reliable power,” Corker said.
“Is there anything that is happening at the federal level right now – anything whatsoever – that you feel pressures TVA into making a decision about wind or anything else that you might feel is detrimental and maybe pushes TVA to make a decision that is not appropriate for the rate payers?” he asked Johnson.
Johnson responded that TVA and its board duty is “to serve the people of the Tennessee Valley and not anybody else, so I’m not particularly concerned about any of that.
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