A publication of Appalachian Voices


A publication of Appalachian Voices

Energy Report

Electric Utility News From Around the Region

Tennessee Valley Authority

Memphis Light, Gas and Water — the largest of the 154 local power companies that buys power from the Tennessee Valley Authority — is studying whether cutting ties with TVA would cut costs. If the Memphis utility left TVA, substantial rate increases for the other 153 companies would likely follow. A Sept. 11 analysis found that the Memphis utility could save more than 33 percent in power generation costs if it broke from TVA.

In a Sept. 22 article, the Energy and Policy Institute, a watchdog organization, stated that TVA is attempting to lock many of its local power companies into 20-year contracts to stop them from jumping ship. Most companies have contracts that are renewed every 10 years or fewer. The new contracts, which more than 125 local power companies had signed as of press time, require the companies to give a 20-year notice before leaving.

In August, the TVA Board of Directors approved a power generation plan for the federally run monopoly utility through 2030. TVA plans to retire 1.9 gigawatts of coal power by 2023 and evaluate the closure of another 2.2 gigawatts if cost effective. The utility also plans to add between 2 to 17 gigawatts of new natural gas capacity.

The utility’s plan also mentions the possibility of adding up to 14 gigawatts of solar, but TVA recommended the inclusion of only 5.5 gigawatts to the board of directors.

Duke Energy

On Oct. 2, the N.C. Senate unexpectedly voted on and passed S.B.559, a utilities bill backed by Duke Energy that includes a controversial multi-year rate plan. Critics, including Appalachian Voices, the publisher of this newspaper, allege the plan would smooth the way for Duke to charge ratepayers an additional $23 billion over 10 years with less public accountability. Although state Senate rules stipulate that bills must be posted on the calendar at least 24 hours before a vote, legislators placed it right after starting the session and passed it 26-16. The N.C. House of Representatives had not voted on the bill as of press time on Oct. 3.

The latest bill resulted from a conference committee that formed to reconcile the versions that passed the state House and Senate. On Aug. 27, the state Senate struck down an amendment to S.B.559 that the state House had passed one week earlier. The amendment would have required a study of the bill’s most disputed provisions, including the rate plan.

State campaign finance data shows that three of the five Senate appointees to the conference committee were among the top five recipients of Duke’s campaign donations to state senators in the 2018 election cycle.

On Aug. 27, the N.C. Utilities Commission ordered Duke Energy to revise long-term energy generation plans for its two subsidiaries in the Carolinas and to potentially address state emission reduction goals. But the monopoly utility’s Sept. 3 updates to the plans rely far too heavily on fracked gas, according to the Sierra Club’s David Rogers.

While the utility projects adding 4.8 gigawatts of solar and battery storage over the next 15 years, it also plans to add 12.1 gigawatts of fracked gas in the same period — up 33 percent from Duke’s 2018 estimate. Duke also plans to keep some coal plants open through 2048.

Old Dominion Power

In July, Old Dominion Power Company, a unit of Kentucky Utilities, filed an application with the Virginia State Corporation Commission seeking to increase its monthly rates by an average of $28.93 for residential customers, and raise its revenue by $12.7 million. The rate hike would raise power costs in two economically distressed Virginia counties. The utility also seeks to raise its base service charge by $4.13 to $16.13 per month.

“These high fixed charges proposed by ODP are specifically designed to discourage energy efficiency and renewable energy investments by ODP’s customers and protect the utility’s profits,” said Appalachian Voices’ Chelsea Barnes.

The commission is expected to decide on the rate hike request early next year. A public hearing in Norton, Va., was held Oct. 2, and the official case hearing is slated to begin on Jan. 22 in Richmond.

Appalachian Voices is intervening in the case. Public comments can be submitted until Jan. 15, 2020 at scc.virginia.gov/case/PublicComments.aspx. Be sure to reference docket PUR-2019-00060.

Dominion Energy

On Aug. 29, Virginia regulators reported that Dominion Energy had collected an excess of $277 million in profits in 2018 over the state-approved level. The typical monthly residential bill has increased $23.17 since 2007, according to a state report released in August.

The utility also seeks to raise the approved profit level from 9.2 percent to 10.75 percent, compared with the actual 2018 overcollected figure of 13.47 percent. Dominion plans to invest $16 billion of ratepayer dollars in “grid improvement” and capital projects, which is expected to increase residential bills by $29.37 per month by Dec. 31, 2023.