The last time TVA ever shuttered a coal plant was in 1983, but on Friday, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced that it is shutting down 7% of its coal power production under a ten-year plan to switch from coal to nuclear power. More than 60% of the electricity under TVA control comes from coal.
More than 1,000 MW of aging coal plants, grandfathered in under more lenient EPA rules in the past, are to be taken offline. To replace the energy they were belching out, President Tom Kilgore announced that the TVA will restart work on the Bellefonte Nuclear Plant in Alabama, that has remained unfinished since 1988.
The TVA has included $248 million in next years budget to restart the nuclear project, currently estimated to cost $4.7 billion by the time it is complete, and expected to raise ratepayers rates.
The utility also plans to encourage conservation during peak demand periods, by restructuring electric rates next spring. TVA will increase its energy conservation budget by about 30% next year to $135 million, for which it expects to be able to reduce energy use by a relatively modest 3.5%.
Some examples of encouraging “negawatts” consumption that has been successful in other states include offering ratepayers off-peak discounts to encourage more people to time-shift energy use to off-peak hours, and for businesses that can, to enroll in a program to voluntarily idle machinery on demand at times when peak use is high (done remotely, with a few hours warning), in return for a lower rate. PG&E offers both options in California with some success.
But the all time most successful way to reduce electricity use has been in states that implement energy-efficient building codes like California’s Title 24 and efficiency codes for major appliances, as former Governor Jerry Brown did decades ago, flattening Californian energy use compared with other states despite a growing economy and population over the next 30 years.
With more energy-efficient homes and fridges, consumers use less electricity without even noticing that they are saving energy.
But the TVA serves Tennessee and parts of Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, and most of these states still have relatively lax building codes that do not require structures to use energy wisely.
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