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TVA conservation plan gets mixed reception

CHATTANOOGA (AP) — The Tennessee Valley Authority’s plans to promote energy conservation were met with applause by some last week, but environmental groups said the utility should be doing more.

During a meeting in Huntsville the nation’s largest public power provider announced $22 million would be spent in the next year to encourage customers to use less energy, TVA’s biggest conservation campaign since the 1970s.

Joe Hoagland, an adviser to TVA President Tom Kilgore, was selected to lead the effort to promote conservation.

“I think what we’re doing is very significant,” Hoagland said Friday. “We’ve set an ambitious goal of coming up with enough conservation to offset the equivalent of Watts Bar Unit 2 within five years.”

But environmental leaders said TVA is still not doing as much as other Southern utilities such as Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light.

TVA was once a leader in promoting conservation with more than 1 million home energy audits and loans made in the 1970s, said Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

He said the utility now seems to be focusing more on building nuclear plants than resuming energy conservation programs.

“They are grossly underfunding efficiency,” Smith said. “I think they need to look at this the same way they look at generation, but so far they are not putting near as much money into conservation.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Action Plan for Energy Efficiency calls for businesses to spend 1 percent of their gross revenues on conservation, Smith said.

With a projected $9.7 billion budget next year, TVA should allocate $97 million for conservation, he said.

Kilgore said the $22 million allocated for next year will help the utility develop programs and more money is likely to be spent on conservation in future years when those programs are up and running.

The agency needs to make sure its initial investments are in effective programs that help consumers save, TVA Chairman Bill Sansom said.

“I think conservation is up on our table as much as anything is,” he said. “But I think you’ll watch us to learn it, understand it and figure out how to do it. We’ll throw money at it if it works, but we’re not just going to throw money at it and hope it works.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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