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Thoughts on Kingston Power Plant

Some of my early memories are riding with my father in a lumber truck delivering large rough sawn beams to Kingston during its construction. My family has been in the lumber business in North Georgia for more than 100 years. My grandfather won a contract to provide the timbers to Kingston in 1951. He and my father and my uncle worked all day cutting trees and sawing the timbers and loading the trucks. Although I was only five years old, I remember the trucks well. One was a red Ford F5 and the other a red Ford F6. My task was to keep Dad awake as we drove at night to be at the plant gate when it opened in the morning. We would unload and then drive back to the sawmill. I remember Dad telling me that it would be the world’s largest power plant and he was proud to have a hand in its construction.

It is with some nostalgia that I observe the Kingston coal plant reaching the end of its long life. After college I joined TVA as a power supply engineer and worked in system planning for several years. It was expected that the Kingston Plant would be retired in the 1980’s as the nuclear plant construction plan progressed. The nuclear construction program was curtailed due to long delays and construction cost over runs. The Kingston Plant stepped up to the task of keeping TVA power reliable and affordable for the next 40 years.

I have retired from TVA but am still involved in the family lumber business. I have continued my involvement in power system planning through consulting work and software development for electric utilities in Europe. I have recently joined the Tennessee Valley Energy Consumer Group at www.tvecg.com as a founding member. Our objective is reliable electric service at the lowest consumer cost. While we recognize the need to move on from the older coal plants, we have some concerns about the reliability and cost fluctuations of natural gas supply as utilities nationwide switch from coal to natural gas. TVECG will be conducting our own planning model studies in support of our comments to be provided to the TVA planning process. While we are just beginning our studies, very preliminary results favor a mix of new resources, including hydro storage, solar, next generation small nuclear plants, energy efficiency, and a more limited role for natural gas. Our studies are transparent and open to participation by all interested parties.

TVECG would like to make several points regarding the Kingston EIS:

1. TVA did not fully consider all the possible options for replacing Kingston and TVECG has serious concerns as to replacement with natural gas being the best option from a consumer point of view.

    2. Fuel costs are passed through directly to consumer monthly bills and, as seen in 2022, natural gas prices can be very volatile. Fuel costs are excluded from TVA management objectives and bonus calculations leading to a mismatch between consumer costs and management objectives which can lead management to make decisions which are not in the consumers’ best interest

    3. Given that natural gas is also a fossil fuel with a significant environmental impact, there is little environmental harm and perhaps large benefits to delaying the construction of the natural gas facilities and, if necessary, extending the life of the coal fired units while other options are considered. 

TVECG requests that TVA delay the decision on the replacement of the Kingston coal units until after the completion of the TVA 2024 Integrated Resource Plan and then make the decision based on guidance from the 2024 IRP.

TVECG will be participating in the TVA IRP and we will be making our own power system model studies for comparison to TVA results. Our study procedures will differ from TVA studies will differ from TVA procedures in the following ways:

·         The objective function of TVECG studies is reliable service at the lowest rate to consumers. Unlike the TVA management objectives, fuel cost and purchase power costs are included.

·         The TVECG model is a full risk based model. Among those risks are the availability and cost of natural gas and the possibility of significant future requirements to reduce or capture emissions.

·         The TVECG model is optimizing the cost of energy to consumers. It will include non grid connected home solar and direct appliance connected solar as well as home efficiency improvements. Optimizing consumer benefits may not always align with optimizing TVA management benefits.