Over 80 organizations working for racial justice, faith, energy justice, and youth encouraged the US Department of Energy to announce a blueprint outlining how Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) will shift to 100 percent renewable power by 2030. The Tennessee Valley Authority has stood out as the country’s largest public power supplier, yet the federally controlled utility has no plans to attain emission-free power at this time. Despite President Joe Biden’s aim of decarbonizing the US electricity industry by 2035, this remains the case.
The groups demanded that the DOE employ TVA will serve as a national laboratory that will help to shape the country’s sustainable and just energy shift in a letter sent today to Jennifer Granholm, Energy Secretary, and Martin Keller, Director of the National Renewable Energy Laboratories.
“TVA has the potential to be the utility leader our country needs to address the climate emergency,” stated Gaby Sarri-Tobar, who is an energy justice advocate at Center for Biological Diversity. “With its current fossil-fuel-friendly board and CEO, TVA will continue to make little progress toward reaching 100 percent renewable as well as just energy by the year 2030. If Secretary Granholm’s team successfully persuades TVA to make significant adjustments, it has the potential to transform the whole US energy system.”
TVA recently stated that two of its four existing coal facilities would be retired. Still, the utility is contemplating substituting them with gas plants, increasing the utility’s reliance on fossil fuels. The Kingston Fossil Plant, for example, was the site of the greatest industrial spill in US history, resulting in an environmental disaster and public health.
This year, TVA announced a $1 billion project at the Paradise and Colbert facilities to build six additional combustion turbine gas units. According to the utility’s forecasts, it will emit over 34 million tons of the CO2 (carbon dioxide) per year by 2038. Solar and wind power account for only 3% of TVA’s total energy supply.
Amy Kelly, a campaign spokesperson for the Beyond Coal Campaign of Sierra Club in the Tennessee Valley, said, “A 100 percent clean electric system is achievable and required.” “We all seek an energy prospect that supports everyone, especially those communities most affected by air and water pollution, climate change, and fossil fuel use. Heavy fossil fuel portfolio of TVA may be shifted to one that is fully renewable and consistent with the administration’s decarbonization target, thanks to the inventiveness of DOE’s national laboratories.”
TVA President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff J. Lyash stated in May that he aims to decarbonize TVA by the year 2050, although he did not elaborate on how he plans to do it. Despite the seriousness of the climate crisis and growing energy insecurity, some groups argue that the timescale is too short. Despite this new target, the company continues to rely on dubious alternatives such as fracked gas, which will exacerbate climate inequity in the Tennessee Valley.