Sen. Lamar Alexander apparently has no intention of shuffling out the U.S. Senate door into a quiet retirement in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Though speculators speciously suggested former University of Tennessee quarterback and future pro football Hall of Famer Peyton Manning might seek Alexander’s seat, the senator was his feisty self this week in one of his patented floor speeches.
Alexander blitzed Clean Line Energy and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Again. In doing so, he planted himself firmly on the other side of the line from TVA and one of his former aides.
“Today I come to the floor to express once again my opposition to the possibility that the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) might raise our electric bills and waste more than $1 billion buying electricity the region does not need by agreeing to purchase power from the Clean Line Energy Partners’ proposed Plains and Eastern wind power transmission project,” Alexander said.
Clean Line builds transmission lines to move electricity generated by wind farms from breezy places to “communities and cities that lack access to new, low-cost renewable power.” Though Tennessee does not lack access to low-cost power, TVA plans to import from Oklahoma anyway.
TVA has tried wind. “In 2001, TVA opened the first commercial-scale wind project in the Southeast,” Alexander said. “It is generous to say it has been a failure.” Though Buffalo Mountain has the capacity to produce 27 megawatts of power, in 2016, Alexander said, the $40 million project produced only 4.3 megawatts, 16 percent of capacity.
Alexander hates the unpredictability of wind and has a common-sense affinity for clean, predictable nuclear power. He mentioned two nuclear plants, challenging TVA’s decision with TVA’s own report.
“In 2015, when TVA completed its Integrated Resource Plan, that plan concluded ‘there is no immediate need for new base load plants after Watts Bar Nuclear Unit 2 comes online and uprates are completed at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant,’” Alexander said. He also wondered why TVA would sell its uncompleted Bellefonte nuclear plant and buy high-priced wind power from Oklahoma.
As reported in the Chattanooga Times Free Press last year, due to more energy-efficient appliances, lights and motors, TVA is delivering less power to households for the first time in its 83-year history. So TVA illogically rigs for expensive wind power as demand declines.
“Why the rush?” Alexander said. “The answer is this: federal subsidies for wind power – subsidies that waste billions of taxpayer dollars each year – end after 2019.” Clean Line, to get its deals done, is throwing cash at wind. It bumped lobbying expenditures from $390,000 in 2015 to $650,000 in 2016, including $160,000 to the Nashville-based Ingram Group, founded by Alexander’s former aide, Tom Ingram.
The old Senate pro has still got game. The Clean Line-TVA alliance is an expensive appeasement of the green lobby at added cost to consumers. TVA should audible away from this big-bucks boondoggle.
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