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Tennessee Utility Gets Public Input On Future Energy Policies

Photo Courtesy TVA

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which is the largest government-owned power utility in the United States, carries a lot of weight in its service area. It supplies power to 10 million people in the Southeast and plays a big role in influencing energy policy in the region. As such, the utility often meets with stakeholders to discuss its plans.

One such meeting took place in January when environmental groups and other stakeholders held a public hearing on the TVA’s energy future. That future has gotten increased attention as the TVA drafts a plan to govern its energy decisions “for the next few decades,” WLPN reported.

Photo Courtesy Tennessee Valley Authority

TVA’s planning document — the Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) — covers a long list of policy decisions, including the energy sources it will use and how it plans to invest in energy conservation, efficiency, and transmission. According to WLPN, the IRP considers public input on potential environmental impacts, costs, and other factors as part of the planning process.

In a May 2023 press release, the TVA called the IRP a guide on “how to best meet expected energy demand in the coming decades.” The previous IRP was completed in 2019, and the next one is expected to be wrapped up this year.

One reason a new IRP is needed in 2024 is because of rapid population growth in the TVA’s seven-state service area. According to Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO, people are moving to the area at “six times the national average.”

Photo Courtesy Tennessee Valley Authority 

“This growth is exciting, but it also carries with it load growth for TVA,” Lyash said in a statement. “We must continue providing our communities and customers with energy security — energy that is affordable, reliable, and resilient — while also being clean. That’s why it’s important to take a detailed look at where we’re headed through an integrated resource plan.”

Various stakeholders have been engaged throughout the IRP process by reviewing the planning information and helping to share the analysis and outcomes.

“The IRP process is critical in ensuring we have input from all voices — our customers, stakeholders, and public — in preparing energy options to serve our region long term,” Lyash added.

Photo Courtesy Tennessee Valley Authority  

TVA held a pair of virtual webinars early in the process and also had a six-week public comment period on the IRP’s environmental review, WLPN reported. Environmental leaders decided to organize the January public hearing to get more public engagement.

At the hearing, community members discussed how the TVA could transition to clean energy sources from fossil fuels while also addressing topics such as Tennessee’s growing electricity demand, and energy affordability for all households, organizers told WLPN.

The Appalachian Voices website reported that some community members want to see more federal oversight of the TVA to ensure transparency and accountability. U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen started the hearing by announcing in a recorded message that he would introduce the “TVA Increased Rate of Participation Act” in Congress. 

As of 2023, the TVA derives 45% of its power from fossil fuels (mainly gas and coal) and 51% from clean energy sources such as hydro and nuclear. However, only 4% of the TVA’s total power use was from wind and solar in the fiscal year 2023, WLPN reported. 

Meanwhile, the TVA has been working to bolster its clean energy program. In December, the utility signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) on a project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

As part of the MOU, the two agencies agreed to provide the DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge with 100% locally supplied carbon pollution-free electricity (CFE) by 2030. Other federal facilities in the TVA’s service territory might also be added in the future.

Photo Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory

According to a press release on Dec. 7, 2023, the agreement advances climate initiatives included in the Federal Sustainability Plan. It has laid out a goal of sourcing 100% CFE as a power source for federal facilities by the end of this decade.


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