published Thursday, July 4th, 2013

Rain cuts Tennessee Valley's power bills in July

Open spillways at Chickamauga Dam help lower lake levels.
Open spillways at Chickamauga Dam help lower lake levels.
Photo by Tim Barber.

By the numbers

* 38 Percent of hydroelectricity generation above normal this year for TVA

* 36.6 - Inches of rain so far this year in the Tennessee Valley above Chattanooga, or nearly 10 inches above normal.

* 10 - Percent cheaper this year for TVA's fuel cost adjustment

* $3.84 - Average monthly savings for Chattanooga residential electricity user because due to lower fuel costs

3,500 - Megawatts of hydro generation capacity for TVA

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority

Heavy rains may have washed out most of this weekend's fireworks, but the wet weather is giving more juice to TVA and its customers.

In its wettest year since 1994, the Tennessee Valley Authority is pumping out a record amount of electricity this year from its cheapest source -- the hydroelectric dams on the Tennessee River and its tributaries. As a result, TVA's fuel portion of its electric rates will be 10 percent less this year during July, which is traditionally the hottest and one of the most expensive months for electricity consumers.

"This is highly unusual for July because historically the fuel costs go up with rising demand during the summer months," TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said.

Rainfall flowing into most of TVA's storage reservoirs upstream of Chattanooga is nearly 10 inches above normal so far this year, making the first half of 2013 the third wettest year in the valley in the 108 years such records have been kept. With several more inches of rain forecast in the next week, TVA has more water than it can flow through its hydro generators and will be spilling some water today through its dams at Fort Loudoun, Chickamauga and Guntersville.

"This is highly unusual for the 4th of July," said Tom Barnett, manager of river forecasting for TVA.

TVA set monthly records for hydro generation in both February and May, and June was the second highest month in TVA history for hydro generation. The federal utility derived about 9 percent of its power from hydroelectric dams last year and that share is running even higher this year with hydro generation already at 138 percent of the normal level.

There is no "fuel" costs for TVA hydro generation since Mother Nature supplies the water used to turn the turbines at TVA's 29 power-generating dams.

As a result, TVA has lowered its monthly fuel cost adjustment for this month to save the typical Chattanooga residential customer $3.84 compared with the same user a year ago. The actual bill will still largely be determined by individual usage patterns and the weather, however.

Contact Dave Flessner at

about Dave Flessner...

Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...

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