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Power Struggle

TVA to hold Memphis public hearing on the future of energy production.

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Memphis residents will get a say on how the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will make power in the next 10 to 20 years in a public hearing on Wednesday, November 6th.

The federal energy corporation is looking to tweak its long-term plan, setting the amounts of power made within its hydroelectric dams, coal-fired plants, and more. The final product of the 18-month-long project will be a chart outlining how much energy is produced by all of TVA's generators.

TVA officials did not expect to make changes to this plan so soon after it was originally set in 2011. But "significant" changes in the economy pushed the corporation to review its plan, TVA spokesman Duncan Mansfield said.

Natural gas prices have fallen to nearly half of what they were in 2011, he said, a fact that may shift more reliance on natural gas-fired power plants like the 774-megawatt Southaven Combined Cycle Plant that TVA bought earlier this year for $400 million. Part of the natural gas price decline is due in part to "fracking," the still-controversial process of extracting natural gas which has been blamed for adverse effects on the environment and human and animal health.

Also, electricity sales have weakened. Sales usually grow between 2 and 3 percent each year, Mansfield said. But that growth has declined since 2011, thanks to downward economic pressures and new energy efficiency programs begun by manufacturers.

"We want to get as much input from stakeholders, the general public, and community and business leaders as we can," Mansfield said. "There's a great interest in transparency in letting folks know what TVA is considering."

Memphis Light ,Gas & Water (MLGW) is TVA's biggest customer, buying about 11 percent of TVA's total output. Dana Jeanes, MLGW's treasurer and chief financial officer, said he will sit on a three-member board to aid TVA through the planning process. But he said he'll be representing all of Tennessee's 150 power distributors and that MLGW won't get more influence on the process based on its size.

Jeanes said he won't bring a list of policy recommendations. But he knows decisions are coming on converting more coal-fired plants to use another fuel, building new power plants, and bringing more nuclear plants online.

Scott Banbury, the Memphis-based conservation chair of the Tennessee Sierra Club, said he will bring an agenda to the hearing.

"We're idealists, and of course we're going to advocate for what we believe is ultimately right," Banbury said.

He'll encourage TVA representatives to increase their study and use of renewable and alternative power sources, especially a new wind energy project coming online in 2017.

The Plains and Eastern Clean Line will generate 3,500 megawatts of electricity from wind farms in Oklahoma's panhandle and pump that energy straight to Southeastern states via 700 miles of high-voltage lines to a TVA station in Atoka. The TVA could decide to buy and sell that energy, which could power about one million homes.

The Memphis meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, November 6th, at 7:30 p.m. at MLGW University at 4949 Raleigh-LaGrange Road.

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