Volunteer Energy Cooperative President Rody Blevins said he is disappointed in a federal ruling continuing limited utility access to TVA’s transmission system.
Blevins said Volunteer Energy is still looking at the option to build its own transmission system.
“We felt like we had a very good case with FERC, and actually the FERC commissioners in some of their narrative agreed with us quite a bit, so we were disappointed that they voted 3 to 1 to not rule in our favor to open the transmission system in the Tennessee Valley,” Blevins said.
Volunteer alongside three other electric companies submitted the complaint to FERC in January. Blevins said the intent was to allow cooperatives to buy power from other sources, thus allowing competitive rates among suppliers.
“FERC basically agreed with our compliant as far as we should have more access to transmissions, and there should be more providers in the Tennessee Valley besides TVA, but they felt like it was Congress’s purpose to change that,” Blevins said.
Blevins said the company is still engaged with TVA to work out a new contract, but negotiations have not been successful. Blevins said the current contract requires a five-year notice before Volunteer Electric could leave TVA.
“We met with their CEO about two weeks and asked him if they would negotiate with Volunteer Energy on anything in the power contract,” Blevins said. “Unfortunately, he said no, they would not negotiate with us. So, we’re going to keep trying to push that issue more. We are also watching very close what the city of Memphis does. They’re considering leaving TVA, because of the higher rates and does TVA work out any contract arrangement with them.”
Blevins said Gibson Electric Corporation and Athens Utility Board are appealing the FERC ruling, which means the matter may see a federal court. Blevins said Volunteer is not participating but could benefit if the ruling changes.
TVA has a so called, “Fence,” around its service. The boarder was set by Congress in 1959 and bars the power company from selling electricity outside its territory. Through the Energy Policy Act of 2005, FERC may give third parties access to the transmission systems, but the power has only been used once.