TVA’s Long-Range Plan Fails to Take Advantage of Energy Efficiency, Renewable Energy
Knoxville, TN—Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors approved the federal utility’s integrated resource plan (IRP) to guide energy decisions for Tennessee and the other states in the TVA region over the next 20 years. Despite confirming that energy efficiency and renewable energy are cost-competitive, TVA’s plan misses significant opportunities to strengthen commitments to these cleaner and cheaper energy options.
There was a strong turnout for today’s meeting, as members of the public offering comments to the Board spilled into an overflow seating area. The broad range of citizens urging TVA to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy commitments included faith leaders, parents and grandparents, low-income advocates, students, and clean energy business leaders.
The release earlier this month of the Clean Power Plan, the landmark federal initiative to cut carbon pollution from U.S. power plants, provides even more definitive reason to invest in renewables and energy efficiency—and to do it sooner rather than later, due to incentive programs— yet the IRP favors investment in natural gas, particularly in the near-term.
“TVA’s plan will reduce carbon based on pre-existing commitments to retire coal plants, but with climate effects getting worse nobody can afford to rest on their laurels, let alone the sixth largest carbon-polluting utility in the nation, ” said Amanda Garcia, staff attorney at Southern Environmental Law Center. “For the sake of public health, our climate, and electricity bills for families in the Valley, TVA can and should be doing more. The Clean Power Plan provides yet another clear economic signal to do so, yet TVA has still delivered a long-range plan that doesn’t go far enough.”
While TVA had pledged to become a regional leader in energy efficiency, the IRP cuts these goals even while its own study confirmed the economic benefits of efficiency programs. At the same time the long-range plan was approved, the Board also agreed to a rate increase to cover costs from recent resource decisions that rely on heavy capital investments. An IRP that embraces energy efficiency would have been the perfect counter to increasing rates. By providing customers with options to reduce energy usage, efficiency programs allow people the choice to lower their monthly bills..
While the long-range plan may not go far enough, TVA has made smart investments recently in clean energy projects that can decrease costs and foster local economic development. For example, TVA’s deal with Google to develop a 100% renewable-powered data center on the site of the soon-to-be retired Widow’s Creek coal plant will bring 75-100 jobs to Jackson County, Alabama. Another agreement to purchase electricity from a solar farm in Lauderdale County, Alabama, is projected to employ 437 people over the life of the project and provide the county with a $20 million revenue increase.
“It’s disappointing that the utility’s long-term planning vision does not fully embrace low-cost, renewable energy and energy efficiency options,” said Jonathan Levenshus, senior campaign representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. “But at the same time, TVA has made important commitments to clean energy in recent months. As TVA continues to assess individual resource decisions moving forward, we hope they will make decisions that do more to lower electricity bills, protect our environment, and create clean energy jobs in the Tennessee Valley.”
Conservation groups have recommended that TVA increase its energy efficiency budget every year by 50% to jumpstart energy efficiency programs. “Increasing investment in energy efficiency to lower electricity bills is particularly critical to low-income customers, who are more likely to live in homes that are inadequately insulated and sealed, and have energy costs that are excessive compared to overall household income,” said Chris Ann Lunghino, organizing representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “A significant commitment to energy efficiency from TVA would benefit the Tennesseans who need it most.”
About the Southern Environmental Law Center: The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of about 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org
About Sierra Club: Tennessee Sierra is a Chapter of the world’s oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization. With 44,000 members and supporters in every county across the state, we have the resources to empower people and to influence public policy through community activism, public education, lobbying, and litigation. www.SierraClub.org/Tennessee