KNOXVILLE, TENN. — The Tennessee Valley Authority today released its plan for how the federal utility aims to generate electricity for its 10 million customers over the next 20 years, proposing an increased commitment to clean solar resources and less reliance on dirty, expensive coal.
But even though TVA is moving in a smarter economic and environmental direction, its planning vision still relies too heavily on risky gas, and comes up short on energy efficiency, which lowers people’s bills and reduces the air and water pollution caused by burning fossil fuels.
The TVA Act mandates that the utility do “least cost planning” to deliver "the most reliable, least cost power, system-wide.” The day before TVA’s first draft of this energy plan was released in February, its board of directors voted to phase out coal at its Bull Run plant in Tennessee and at its Paradise plant in western Kentucky. TVA staff said the plants cost too much to run, rarely operate, and aren’t needed for grid reliability.
So, as expected, economic analysis for this plan—called an “Integrated Resource Plan,” or IRP—showed that adopting renewable energy, especially solar and battery storage, are consistent with a least-cost approach for keeping electricity prices low. One gigawatt of solar can power more than 100,000 homes.
The new proposed plan calls for TVA to add up to 14 gigawatts of solar, up to 5 gigawatts of battery storage and from 2 to 17 gigawatts of gas.
Sierra Club was the only environmental organization with a seat on TVA’s 2019 IRP Working Group, a task force of TVA's distributors, industrial customers, government officials, and energy experts who met regularly to give input on the plan as it evolved.
TVA’s board will vote on the proposed plan at their Aug. 22 meeting in Knoxville.
In response to today’s plan release, Al Armendariz, deputy regional director for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, issued the following statement:
“The analysis behind this plan confirms what we've known all along: moving away from coal is a smart business decision that benefits our air, water and communities. And those same economics also support moving more aggressively toward safe, cheap, abundant solar, increasing storage, and helping people lower their bills by making energy efficiency more accessible, especially to seniors and people living on fixed incomes.
“Renewable energy technologies are smarter and safer than fossil fuels, and it’s now known that they’re the cheapest form of new electricity generation across most of the world—cheaper than both coal and gas. So even as TVA is making positive strides in this new plan, its leaders must start planning for an energy future that doesn’t just trade coal for gas—which not only exposes customers to a volatile market, but also worsens the climate crisis.
“And because we know the future will be carbon constrained, TVA should accelerate retirements of their oldest coal plants, which the model indicates would benefit all of TVA's customers. TVA can transition fully away from fossil fuels and still meet customers’ needs in a reliable, equitable and environmentally responsible manner, while still strengthening its bottom line, growing the economy, and helping families and businesses pay less on their bills.”
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.