TVA to Help Chinese Boost Power New U.S. Ambassador from Tennessee Helps Nail Down Agreement

Article excerpt

Since arriving in Beijing this spring, U.S. Ambassador James Sasser has been scurrying to boost business ties - especially for his home state of Tennessee.

His work was evident this week, when the Tennessee Valley Authority - the largest U.S. electricity producer - signed agreements to help China produce hydroelectric power and develop one of its most flood-prone river basins.

At the same time, Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist joined the TVA in playing host to a conference for business executives, mostly from Tennessee, interested in cracking the Chinese market. The appointment of the former Democratic senator from Tennessee as ambassador couldn't have come at a better time for the TVA, which is trying to expand internationally as it prepares for deregulation of the utility industry. Sasser helped open doors, provided advice and welcomed conference members to his residence for a reception. "It has been a great help to have Ambassador Sasser here," said TVA Chairman Craven Crowell, who traveled to Beijing to attend the conference and meet with Chinese officials. The U.S. government-owned power producer manages the 650-mile Tennessee River system and runs dozens of plants that provide power to seven Southern states. The agreement with China calls for the TVA to help modernize and automate the country's hydroelectric plants. Another agreement could lead to the TVA's involvement in developing the Han River system. …