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Oak Ridge and TVA: A Partnership for Technology and Development

Remarks by Craven Crowell, Chairman
Tennessee Valley Authority
to the Oak Ridge Rotary Club
August 26, 1999 -- Oak Ridge, Tennessee

 

Thank you, John (Verble), for that kind introduction. It's a pleasure to be with all of you today and to be back in Oak Ridge. TVA has a long history in Oak Ridge, of course, and it's a history we're all very proud of.

When the government called on TVA and the Oak Ridge community to help win the war back in the 1940s, both TVA and this community responded with an almost superhuman commitment. Scientists came to Oak Ridge for the Manhattan Project, and engineers from TVA figured out how to provide the massive amount of electricity they'd need to develop the atomic bomb. Tom Brokaw, the anchorman, says in his new book that the men and women who did these things were part of "the greatest generation."

When you look at what people accomplished here, it's hard to disagree. After Pearl Harbor, for example, work was started on Douglas Dam, and the project was completed in only 13 months. But Douglas, alone, couldn't supply the power that was needed.

New defense industries sprang up to produce processed metals, food, fibers and chemicals -- all for the war effort -- and TVA quickly began work on nine new dams to generate hydroelectric power. Factories were built almost overnight to produce airplanes, boilers for ships, gas masks and explosives, and TVA -- using both hydro, and a newly-constructed coal-fired steam plant -- met this growing energy demand. World War II was a good example of the many ways our society -- and great public power companies like TVA -- can respond to new circumstances and meet new challenges.

Circumstances have changed dramatically since the 1940s. But I like to think we are still as responsive and as capable as that "greatest generation" that built the Bomb and won the war. Our challenge today is to meet the demands of the great social and economic transformation that is remaking America at the turn of the century.

This transformation is creating what some theorists refer to as a "knowledge-based economy" and "the information age." This "society-in-the-making" is one that values technology and its applications. It values the research that's at the heart of technological development, and ladies and gentlemen, just as we worked together to meet the extraordinary challenges of war fifty years ago, I'm confident that TVA, Oak Ridge, and communities throughout the Tennessee Valley will be partners in meeting the new challenges of the 21st century.

THE ROLE OF ELECTRICITY IN SUPPORTING TECHNOLOGY

On a global level, the Electric Power Research Institute is in the business of mapping the future for utilities around the world. One area that EPRI is studying is the role of electricity in the future of the global economy. The U.S. and other developed nations became economic powerhouses by first becoming industrial powerhouses.

But the industrial revolution of the past is giving way to the information revolution of the future. Until recently the world's most prosperous nations ran primarily on oil and its byproducts. Today, however, the road to economic prosperity is lined with microchips.

Our future strength as a nation will depend on information technology, and reliable, affordable electricity to run it. Only electricity offers the precision and flexibility to be the backbone of an information-based economy. As our dependence on technology grows, so does our reliance on electricity.

In 1970 electricity accounted for 25 percent of the energy used in the United States. It now accounts for 40 percent, and climbing. Electricity-based information technology now accounts for more than 50 percent of economic growth in the U.S. and other Western nations.

As a result, our energy reserves are dwindling. Furthermore, weaknesses in the nation's power transmission systems limit the ability to move large quantities of power from one region to another. As our nation becomes ever-more dependent on technology and the electricity it requires, we must increase both:

  • Our capacity for generating electricity, and
  • Our capacity for moving power to regions where shortages may be experienced.

ELECTRICITY'S ROLE IN THE GLOBAL ECONOMY

As we look to ensuring that your needs are met, electric utilities around the world must also consider the long-term energy needs of a global population, which now stands at 6.2 billion. That figure is expected to reach 8 billion in 20 years, and double by the Year 2100. To put that population growth in perspective, it took thousands of years for the world population to reach one billion.

That was in 1500. Between 1850 and the early part of this century, the population reached two billion. In just the past 50 years, that figure tripled, to 6 billion, and in the brief period of two decades, the world population will increase by another two billion!

Ninety percent of that growth will take place in the world's poorest nations, where electricity is often lacking. To become economically self-sufficient, developing nations are going to need a lot more energy. Over the next 50 years world-wide demand for energy is expected to double.

As developing nations struggle to build their economies and meet energy needs, we should not expect them to follow the Western model of industrialization. First, there isn't enough fossil fuel left to support heavy industrialization on a global scale. World petroleum production is expected to peak early in the next century and then rapidly decline as viable reserves are depleted.

Second, we're reaching the limits of what our planet can withstand from the environmental consequences of burning carbon-based fuels. Emerging nations must therefore develop energy sources that are more benign than those that we in the West relied upon, and developing nations must build economies based on technology and information, as nations on the Pacific Rim already have done. Electricity is clearly the energy of choice that meets both these important needs

As pioneers and leaders in the production of electricity, I believe utilities in developed countries have an obligation to share with developing nations our guidance and expertise in electricity production, if only for selfish reasons. As the proverb says, give people fish and you feed them for a day. Teach them to fish and they will feed themselves for a lifetime.

SERVING THE PUBLIC GOOD

It's that kind of thinking that was behind the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority more than six decades ago, and it's the philosophy that continues to guide our efforts as an advocate for the public good. We recognize how information and technology are blurring international boundaries, especially for commerce and trade, and we recognize the important role electricity will play as emerging nations take their place in the global family of nations. Here at home, as America's own capacity needs become a focus of discussion, TVA's role as an agent for the public good will be an important advantage for the Valley.

Unlike private utilities, we can and we must take a more visionary view of the long-term energy needs of our region, and the world. We must make decisions that serve the greater good, even when the near-term economic benefits may not be readily apparent. That's what sets TVA apart from other utilities.

Unlike them, we have a mandate to serve the public good, not just the bottom line, and the public good here in Oak Ridge means ensuring that your power needs will always be met, reliably and affordably. TVA is one of the few U.S. utilities that are adding new capacity. Given regional demand growth of four percent a year, we need to grow our capacity by about a thousand megawatts a year.

Over the past six years we've added about 4,000 megawatts of generation. In the next several years, we're planning to add another 2,300 megawatts. Through improvements to our existing equipment, we're squeezing out incremental increases that are helping us get more power out of the assets we already have.

In recent weeks, we've had a dramatic demonstration of the value of these additions to our generation. In a 10-day period in July, we exceeded TVA's previous all-time record for peak demand eight times and set four new records for generation. The highest peak was 28,295 megawatts on July 30.

That was the second consecutive day that power demand topped the 28,000-megawatt mark, which was a new benchmark for us. In all, this summer TVA's power system has meet 16 peak power demands higher than the previous record, set a year ago. Naturally, the employees of deserve the credit for the excellent work they've done to keep our system operating at peak efficiency, and in the next few months we at TVA are going to be looking at our future plans for adding more generation.

It's our goal to make sure our planning is prudent for the energy needs of the Valley.

For our part, TVA will continue to be an active partner with you in promoting economic growth. As the old saying goes, when the tide comes in, all the ships rise, and when investments in our region grow, more jobs are created that allow your sons and daughters to find quality jobs here at home. TVA and the distributors of TVA power are proud to work with and support Oak Ridge.

We are committed to the economic growth of this area and to our partnerships with you. We must set our sights on the future, and continue on the visionary course of ensuring long-term economic opportunities for our children. In so doing, we'll ensure an even better quality of life for everyone in the Tennessee Valley.
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Craven Crowell is Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority

 

 

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