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The Wheeler Dam Power Production Plant on the Tennessee River generates electricity Friday.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
The Wheeler Dam Power Production Plant on the Tennessee River generates electricity Friday.

DROUGHT MAY MEAN HIGHER ELECTRIC BILLS
TVA urges energy conservation

By Evan Belanger
ebelanger@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

The most severe drought in 118 years could translate to higher electric bills for local residents.

John Moulton, a Tennessee Valley Authority spokesman, said record low rainfall this year is making it difficult for TVA to keep its river reservoirs full.

To help conserve water, he said, dam operators have made drastic cuts in hydroelectric production, TVA's cheapest source of electricity.

"We've been in conservation mode since early winter due to dry conditions in 2006," Moulton said. "We reduced our hydro-generation because we want to store as much water as we can."

As of Tuesday, overall hydroelectric production was down about 50 percent, meaning TVA is being forced to purchase more electricity from other sources, according to Moulton.

He said TVA could pass the added cost to local customers as early as Oct. 1, during the next cost adjustment period. No estimate on what the adjustment might be was available.

In response, TVA is initiating a campaign to curb consumption during peak hours.

Officials are asking all TVA customers to set their thermostats a couple degrees warmer and reduce electricity use between 2 and 8 p.m., when demand is usually at its highest and the most outsourced electricity is purchased.

"That will help prevent us from having to buy as much electricity from other sources," Moulton said, "and hopefully keep the rates from going up."

According to a TVA press release, even after Friday's heavy showers, water levels in TVA reservoirs were expected to remain low.

Officials said it would take several sustained, soaking rains to have a significant impact on reservoir levels.

According to the National Weather Service, as of Friday, North Alabama was about 19 inches below normal rainfall for the year, with just 12 inches of rain having fallen since Jan. 1.

Officials are cautioning local residents to use care when boating on TVA lakes, indicating hazards like stumps and rocks could be exposed by the lower water levels.

While Wheeler Lake in Decatur was only about one foot below normal Tuesday, upstream tributaries were about 12 feet below full pool, according to Moulton.

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