Chattanooga Times Free Press: Lamar Alexander urges less wind power in TVA's future plans

Posted on May 18, 2015

KNOXVILLE - The Tennessee Valley Authority appears to be too eager to pursue "unreliable and uneconomical wind power," U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander said today.

Alexander, a member of the Senate energy and water subcommittee, urged TVA to follow the lowest cost options for energy in the future as it prepares a power plan this year for the next 20 years.

Alexander said growing use of nuclear power and natural gas, and new pollution controls on coal plants, have helped make the air in the Tennessee Valley as clean as it has been in decades and warned that pursuing more renewable energy sources like wind and solar could end up costing TVA more than other forms of generation.

"I don't see why we need any wind (generation)," Alexander said prior to a hearing here with TVA's top officials and customers gathered here at the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy. "In nuclear is zero emissions and wind is more expensive and you don't need it most of the time why would you buy it?

Emissions of smog and particulates have dropped by more than 70 percent from the peak levels reached three decades ago.

Alexander is one of the strongest proponents of nuclear power in the U.S. Senate, urging America two years ago to build another 100 nuclear reactors for future electricity generation. Alexander also is a frequent critic of wind power and the production subsidies provided to wind generators by the the federal government, which Alexander says will cost $13 billion over the next two years.

"The 2.3-cent tax credit for each kilowatt-hour of wind-power electricity produced is sometimes worth more than the energy it subsidizes," Alexander recently wrote in an editorial published by The Wall Street Journal.

Despite his concerns about more renewable power purchases that might be more expensvie, Alexander praised TVA's leadership for controlling costs and limiting pollution. 

TVA President Bill Johnson said TVA is pursuing plans to keep electricity rates as low as possible, as well as keeping service reliable and cleaner than in the past. TVA's preferred integrated resource plan doesn't call for any new nuclear, coal or other base loadgeneration in the next decade. But the plan does foresee more natural gas generation, energy efficiency measures and renewable purchases, especially beyond 2025.

Although TVA electric rates are not as favorable compared with other utilities it once was, Johnson said TVA electric rates in the Tennessee Valley are still below average.