HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Tennessee Valley Authority approved a rate hike Thursday, the utility’s first such hike in four years. The 4.5 percent increase is set to go into effect on Oct. 1.

TVA also set the stage to give the Bellefonte nuclear plant site new life – again. The utility’s board moved the Bellefonte site off its current surplus property list for possible future consideration as a generation or storage site.

Most consumers don’t buy their power directly from TVA but through their local power distributor — such as Huntsville Utilities. The rate increase affects the rate TVA will charge its customers for electricity and, that generally is passed on by the local utility.

TVA said its board approved $15 billion in investments to build additional electricity-generating capacity and upgrade the system. Last Christmas Eve, there were rolling blackouts in Huntsville and other areas due to severe weather, heavy power demand and the failure of some TVA systems.

TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said today that given the continued rise in electricity demand, the utility will need to double or triple its capacity over the next 30 years.

“It’s due to these factors we’re facing that we’ll be raising base rates as the board approved 4.5 percent, which has been estimated to translate to about $3.60 on a typical customer energy bill,” he said. “And I say that and it sounds like a small amount, but everybody on the TVA team realizes for folks on a fixed income, for the high-energy burdened, that’s not a small amount.

And it may look good relatively compared to our peers, but that relativity is not significant to our end-use customers. These funds are going to be used with a high degree of stewardship, to invest in the reliability and resiliency of the TVA system and to support the continued economic growth that will raise wages for people in this region.”

In 2019 TVA said it didn’t plan to raise its electricity rate for 10 years, but that changed
Thursday. TVA also said it will offer increased rebates and incentives for
electricity efficiency upgrades.

The utility may be again offering the possibility of an active site at Bellefonte, located in the Jackson County town of Hollywood. Construction of a two-reactor nuclear
plant begin in the 1970s. But after cost overruns — the utility stopped the project in the mid-1980s. In 2011, the utility announced it planned to complete the Unit 1 reactor, but that plan was later abandoned.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board asked Matt Rasmussen, TVA’s senior vice president, of engineering and operations support, about possible uses for Bellefonte.  

“The intention truly is to reserve it for future opportunity,” he said. “What we see, based off the increased load demand and the property assessment that was performed this year there is a higher probability of either a generation and/or storage deployment at that location. It’s not a guarantee, but a higher probability and the request is truly technologically agnostic, but it is a reservation for the potential future development based off the changes in our economic and load forecast.”

Over the years plans for the site have included hundreds of permanent jobs and thousands of construction jobs, but for the last few decades, those plans haven’t worked out. The last major option was the auction sale to Chattanooga-based Nuclear Development Inc., which won an auction for the property in 2016.  The company announced plans to complete both reactors, but TVA pulled out that deal in November 2018, citing license problems with Nuclear Development’s proposal. TVA prevailed in a related lawsuit in 2021.