MOTHER's Newsworthies: S. David Freeman, John Denver and George E. Brown, Jr.

Learn how S. David Freeman, is leading electric companies to promote energy conservation; John Denver, is making efforts to save country roads from becoming large highways; and George E. Brown, Jr., helped compile a comprehensive data bank of universities and schools that offer solar energy education.

| July/August 1979


Brief: S. David Freeman

New Yorkers still remember — with stunned smiles — the result of a power conservation campaign conducted by a local utility a few years ago. The area's energy consumption went down all right ... and an application for a rate hike was immediately filed — by the utility — on the grounds that profits were cut by the lowered usage! Not all power companies subscribe to such crazy logic, though ... and the words of the new Chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority have the sweet sound of sanity. S. David Freeman, speaking last September — just four months after his appointment as head of the TVA — told his audience that "solar power is on the verge of a fantastic boom in America ... we need to demonstrate to the public that a wide range of solar applications can be used here and now, and will save energy, save the environment, and save money as well. What's needed is an affirmative action policy for the sun."

Corporate rhetoric, followed by business as usual? Not in this case. Freeman offered action ... and a rationale that made economic sense. A TVA pilot project in Memphis will install over 1,000 solar water heaters in private homes, and the program will be financed by 20 year, low-interest loans underwritten by the Authority. Customers of the local utility — whose monthly electric water heating bills now average between $12 and $17 — will pay for the solar installation at the rate of $12 a month ... plus $1 for maintenance and an estimated maximum of $3 for off-peak electricity for the backup system.

This means that Memphis residents will have solar water heating for pretty much the same price they now pay for conventional service. But things will get even better in the future, according to Freeman. Since only the rate for the backup system's electricity will ever increase, those solar customers will — by 1998 be paying an estimated $25 a month ... about a third of what folks with electric water heaters will pay. And, in 1999 (when the 20-year loan is paid off), solar costs will actually drop by $12 a month!

As Freeman points out, "Solar energy provides obvious benefits to customers by helping lower their electric bills, and also offers potential savings to the power system (and thus to all consumers). By lowering peak demands, the system can realize millions of dollars in savings because we can avoid the use of expensive oil-fired combustion turbines or the high cost of power purchased from neighboring electric systems."

Freeman estimates that — due to the reduction in peak demand — savings of several hundred dollars per solar unit would accrue to the TVA ... and the eventual goal is to have 50,000 to 100,000 systems installed in the Authority's service area. According to Freeman, "TVA and other power suppliers may be able to contribute to the cost of each solar unit installed and still achieve savings for all power users."

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