The announcement of the shortlist may well be delayed, however. And Irish cautions that the huge publicly owned utility, which serves eight million customers, will most likely not launch the program to customers for another three or four years. Indeed, its target start date is June 1, 2002. "A year earlier would be great, but much earlier is unlikely," he says. The utility's many distributors do not want TVA to offer the program earlier than intended because of the complexity of changing their billing procedures. TVA also wants to be sure it understands the green market. Distributors serve customers in seven southern states from Kentucky and North Carolina to Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.
The amount of clean electricity to be bought is unclear. A market assessment of customer interest should be completed in July. But even then, TVA realises that what customers say to surveyors can be different from what they might do when it is time to put their money on the line. "Maybe a year from now we'll have a better idea if [TVA will solicit] 25 MW or 75 MW," says Irish.
Among the reasons behind TVA's decision for a green program is the need for a jump start in case of federal regulations requiring a fixed percentage of renewables in the supply mix. One of the largest utilities in the US, TVA has a peak load of 27,000 MW. If demand for the product resulted in a 2% penetration, an estimate based on experience in Wisconsin and Connecticut, TVA will need 140 billion kWh of green power annually. TVA is a "corporate entity" of the US government, not unlike Bonneville Power Administration.