CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee Valley Authority plan designed to guide decision making recommends greater use of nuclear power, natural gas and renewable resources and less reliance on coal in the next two decades.
TVA executives in a telephone and online news conference Friday said the plan was developed after public hearings and input from a panel of customers, business executives, government leaders and environmentalists over two years. It will be presented to the utility's board April 14. The last such plan was developed about 15 years ago.
TVA senior manager Gary Brinkworth and Van Wardlaw, an executive vice president, said the recommended final integrated resource plan is designed to reduce emissions and control costs but cannot be used to predict customer rates or how it will affect TVA's employment level. They said the 20-year plan charts the best options for TVA "to continue to deliver low-cost, reliable power" and will be reviewed in 2015.
TVA, the country's largest public utility, supplies power to about 9 million people in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
The Knoxville-based utility is idling 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation while spending $2.5 billion over five years to finish a 1,200-megawatt reactor at its Watts Bar site by October 2012. TVA said one megawatt of nuclear capacity can provide power to about 585 homes in the region.
The recommended plan includes a range of idling coal-fired power generation, possibly up to another 3,700 megawatts by 2017 and expanding nuclear power up to 5,900 megawatts by 2029.
TVA operates 29 hydroelectric dams, 11 coal-fired power plants, three nuclear plants and 11 natural gas-powered facilities that can produce about 34,000 megawatts of electricity.
"It is an approach to evaluating the future," Brinkworth said of the plan. "What we try to do is look at various options for the future and then try to plan our business to be successful in more than one of those futures."
The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in a statement after the news conference congratulated TVA for "including meaningful public participation" in developing the recommended plan.
"Now, key decisions by the TVA board and senior management will determine how beneficial these reform efforts will actually be," said alliance director Stephen Smith.
He said the plan shows that the highest levels of coal retirements, energy efficiency and renewable energy are the best choices.
Smith said the plan's evaluation for beyond 2020 "is not as strong" as for the current decade. He recommended that the TVA board reconsider its plans to expand the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in northeast Alabama "and put even more coal plant retirements on the table."
The board has approved funding for initial engineering design and site preparation for a Unit 1 reactor at the Bellefonte plant.