TVA set to retire 1,000MW of coal-fired generation across three power facilities

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority has announced plans to retire 18 older coal-fired generation units at three power plants as part of the federal utility’s vision of being one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020.

The retirements, which include about 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity previously slated for idling, mean TVA will have idled or retired about 2,700 megawatts of its 17,000 megawatts of coal-fired capacity by the end of 2017. The capacity will be replaced with low-emission or zero-emission electricity sources, including renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear power and energy efficiency.

President and CEO Tom Kilgore told the TVA board of directors, meeting in Chattanooga, that replacing older and less-economical generation with cleaner sources also is in alignment with recommendations in the utility’s Integrated Resource Plan as well as the utility’s vision for cleaner air.

The Integrated Resource Plan, which was formally presented to the board of directors at Thursday’s meeting, was developed over two years, with extensive business, technical and economic analysis and public input. Kilgore credited a Stakeholder Review Group, consisting of representatives of the political, business, consumer and environmental communities, for providing expertise and viewpoints “that added important perspectives as we formulated our Integrated Resource Plan.”

The plan recommends a strategic direction focusing on a diverse mix of electricity generation sources, including nuclear power, renewable energy, natural gas and energy efficiency, as well as traditional coal and hydroelectric power.

“Diversity proved to be the most prudent course in meeting future energy needs in all the various future scenarios we studied,” Kilgore said. “A variety of electricity sources, rather than heavy reliance on any single source, reduces long-term risks and helps keep costs steady and predictable.”

The coal-unit retirements announced include two at John Sevier Fossil Plant in East Tennessee, six at Widows Creek Fossil Plant in northern Alabama and all 10 units at Johnsonville Fossil Plant in Middle Tennessee. TVA announced in 2010 that it would idle units at John Sevier and Widows Creek, as well as one of 10 units at Shawnee Fossil Plant near Paducah, Ky. Idling units shuts them down in stand-by status, while retirement permanently removes them from service under their current operating permits.

“These units are among the first built by TVA and have served us well over the years. But as times change, TVA must adapt to meet future challenges,” Kilgore said, adding that installing the expensive emission-control equipment that new regulations would require at the smaller, older plants would not be economical. He explained that other coal-fired units without advanced emission controls also are under consideration for idling and possible retirement or for additional emission-control equipment.

Consistent with the coal-unit retirements, and in alignment with the Integrated Resource Plan and vision for cleaner air, the TVA board also authorized Kilgore to enter agreements with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; the states of Alabama, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina; and three environmental advocacy groups to settle ongoing legal and regulatory issues related to Clean Air Act compliance.

TVA has invested more than $5.3 billion since 1977 to reduce coal-fired power plant emissions. With the EPA agreements and its own long-range plans, TVA estimates that it will invest an additional $3 billion to $5 billion in the next 10 years on new emission-control equipment and upgrades of existing equipment at its coal plants.

The agreements with EPA also call for TVA to provide $350 million to fund a number of environmental improvement projects over the next five years. Those include efficiency upgrades to the electric grid; support for energy efficiency enhancements in homes and businesses; assistance to the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service in restoring and improving lands, watersheds and forests; and aiding reduction of greenhouse gas emissions through efforts such as waste-heat recovery, solar and landfill-gas energy installations.

Also under the EPA agreements, TVA has agreed to pay a $10 million civil penalty to end costly legal proceedings and reduce the risks of much higher costs in the future related to past and potential disputes over regulatory compliance.

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