Where does our power come from?  (Part 2) 

December 14, 2020                                                                                                                                           Home

The power lines that run to our homes and businesses are installed and maintained by Powell Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC), with more than 31,000 member owners.  PVEC purchases its power from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which serves electric utilities in parts of seven southern states.

Where does TVA get its power? 

The following figures compare TVA’s energy mix from its most recent year to 15 years ago (in parentheses):  21 percent coal (60 percent);  40 percent nuclear (30 percent); 20 percent natural gas (1 percent);  13 percent hydro (10 percent);  solar and wind 3 per cent (zero).  In summary,  major decrease in coal; major increase in natural gas; increase in nuclear; and small increase in hydro, solar, and wind.

Why are TVA and other energy providers in the USA shutting down coal-powered plants?

Watts Barr Nuclear Plant

Over the past 15 years, TVA has shut down more than a dozen of its coal-powered plants.  In the next three years two more of its largest plants (Bull Run near Oak Ridge, TN and Paradise in Kentucky) will be shut down.  Why?  There are three reasons:  cost of operation;  disposal of coal ash produced by these plants;  impact on climate of burning fossil fuels.

Demolition of John Sevier Fossil Plant

When TVA decided in 2019 to shut down the two above plants, it estimated a direct savings of $320 million in operating costs.  This does not include costs for removal of coal ash.  Coal ash is a byproduct of coal-powered plants.  In 2009 the ash pond at Kingston, TN outside Knoxville gave way, pouring over a billion gallons of toxic material into the Emory River, destroying homes and the river.  There are many more of these coal ash ponds sitting next to coal burning plants, including one just outside Rogersville at the site of the former John Sevier Fossil Fuel Plant.

TVA is only one of many power generators changing its energy mix.  Hoosier Energy of Indiana recently announced plans to shutter its only coal-fired plant. The closing is part of its overall plan to diversify its generation mix to include renewable energy (solar and wind), natural gas, and storage.  Hoosier Energy said the closure will save its 18 member electric co-ops $700 million and provide “a foundation for supply cost stability and predictability while reducing the company’s carbon footprint by nearly 80%.”

This trend will continue because “the price of producing power at natural gas plants and with wind and solar has declined so dramatically,” said David Schlissel, director of resource planning analysis at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, an energy research firm based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Why is this important to me, a member-owner of a cooperative?

It is important to you, to all of us who pay an electric bill.  As PVEC purchases its power from TVA, whatever expenses TVA can cut keeps TVA from increasing its rates to PVEC and the rates we then pay to PVEC to power our homes and businesses.

STAY TUNED – next week a look at specific examples of what electric cooperatives (like PVEC) can do to provide cheaper cleaner power on their own.

Everyone needs to learn more about our electric cooperative.  For more information, go to pve.coop.   

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