SELC op-ed: Tennessee can benefit from EPA’s Clean Power Plan

Knoxville, Tennessee, pictured above, is one of many areas in the state ready to take advantage of incentives in the EPA's new Clean Power Plan. (© istock)

Tennessee is well positioned to take advantage of the opportunities built in to the EPA's recently-released Clean Power Plan, most notably in the form of local job creation and lower electricity bills. Already cities like Knoxville are using energy efficiency programs to lower electricity bills for customers and the state is well on its way to meeting new carbon emissions standards.

Amanda Garcia, staff attorney in our Nashville office, detailed the opportunities for the state in a recent Knoxville News-Sentinel op-ed. An excerpt of her piece is below; the full content is available here.

"The country's strongest action ever to reduce carbon pollution was unveiled last week, a plan put forward by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that is both ambitious — cut power plant emissions causing climate change by 32 percent over the next 15 years — and pragmatic — each state can design its own way to meet the targets.

"Tennessee is easily positioned to meet the Clean Power Plan's carbon pollution targets. The Tennessee Valley Authority had projected significant carbon reductions over the next 20 years because of planned coal plants retirements and nuclear investments in our state, with or without the Clean Power Plan. So the question is not whether we can meet the targets but how we can do so in a way that best benefits Tennesseans.

"We have the opportunity to come up with a plan that leverages our booming clean energy sector to drive new economic activity in the state and lower electric bills for those who need it most.

"The Clean Power Plan is designed to provide cleaner and more affordable energy choices, and Tennessee will need new jobs to get there — good-paying, local jobs to produce power from cleaner sources like solar and to make better use of the energy we produce through installing energy-efficiency measures. While the public health and climate benefits are reason enough to take action, we should not overlook the economic opportunity the Clean Power Plan provides.

"Tennessee is already one of the fastest-growing states for clean energy jobs. A recent study conducted by E2 and BW Research Partners found that in the past year, clean energy jobs rose by 6.3 percent. And throughout the Southeast, leading companies are making clean energy a prerequisite for doing business. Take TVA's recent deal with Google to build a data center on the grounds of the closing Widows Creek coal plant. If Tennessee approaches the Clean Power Plan in a smart way, we can accelerate our state's job-generating shift to clean power and attract more businesses.

"The Clean Power Plan also encourages investment in energy efficiency, which is the smartest, cheapest and lowest-risk option for energy production. It makes better use of the energy we produce, which results in lower electricity bills. The Clean Power Plan provides incentives for states to invest early in energy efficiency programs for low-income consumers. TVA is already piloting these types of programs and we can build on them in our state plan, lowering electric bills for those Tennesseans who need it most and reaping the benefits of early, cost-effective compliance with the rule.

"Right here in Knoxville, the city government, TVA, Knoxville Utilities Board and others are joining together to give low-income consumers Extreme Energy Makeovers, retrofitting 600 homes for energy efficiency in the next two years. The utilities board is also piloting the Round It Up program, which funds low-income home weatherization projects. And Knox County recently decided to install solar panels on 11 schools, partnering with a local company to put boots on the roof and saving the district $29 million on its electric bills.

"The Clean Power Plan offers an unprecedented opportunity for Tennessee, and no one is better positioned than Knoxville to lead the way."

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