The Tennessee Valley Authority: Competing in Markets for Capital and Electricity in Pursuit of Solvency

33 Pages Posted: 21 Dec 2001  

Dennis E. Logue

The Brattle Group

Paul W. MacAvoy

Yale School of Management (Deceased); Yale University, Yale Graduates Energy Study Group (Deceased)

Date Written: November 2001

Abstract

The Tennessee Valley Authority, as a federal corporation governed independently by a three-person board, undertook excessive investments in the 1980s based on erroneous projections of technology and demand growth for electricity. These capital outlays have been financed to pay back loans on deferred depreciation by arbitrary price increases for electricity. Even with electricity markets now beginning to open up to competition, inside and outside the TVA regional monopoly "fence," TVA still expects to keep solvent and reduce excessive debt. But financial analysis undertaken here indicates that TVA's solvency scenario holds only under very narrow assumptions, and an array of equally plausible, and perhaps more realistic, assumptions leads to projections of insolvency for TVA within a very few years.

If insolvent, with realization of one of the more likely scenarios, TVA as a public enterprise would not go into bankruptcy. It might be able to generate increased revenues by price increases; if only in a limited range given newly competitive markets for power inside or adjacent to the "fence." It could call for the Federal Financing Bank to redeem TVA bonds at full value even though these bonds would be redeemed at discounted value in the market for bankrupt securities. The impending threat of insolvency then makes a pressing case for determination as to whether the Federal Bank should bail out TVA from the consequences as of investment errors with taxpayer funds. The alternative would be to treat this company the same as investor-owned utilities that made erroneous large-scale capital outlays over the last two decades. This would call for bankruptcy proceedings, following privatization of the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Keywords: Public Corporations, Insolvency and Privatization

JEL Classification: L94, L98, H42

Suggested Citation

Logue, Dennis E. and MacAvoy, Paul W., The Tennessee Valley Authority: Competing in Markets for Capital and Electricity in Pursuit of Solvency (November 2001). Yale SOM Working Paper No. OL-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=292759 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.292759

Dennis E. Logue

The Brattle Group ( email )

44 Brattle Street
3rd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138-3736
United States
617.864.7900 (Phone)

Paul W. MacAvoy (Contact Author)

Yale School of Management (Deceased)

Yale University, Yale Graduates Energy Study Group (Deceased)

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