Below are the public comments given by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, to the TVA Board of Directors during a public meeting held August 25, 2016.
First, thank you for the move to develop the Distributed Energy Resources department. We look forward to working with Jay and his team as this comes together.
In my very limited time, I wanted to attempt to connect some historic dots that have been in the headlines and link them back to decisions that you as a Board, in coordination with staff, will be making. First a few facts:
- This past July was the hottest July ever recorded since humans began instrument recording.
- Last year, 2015, was the hottest year ever on record, a historic record.
- Indeed, 15 of the last 16 years have been the hottest ever recorded, an historic trend.
- The United States has had 8 record setting “500 year rainfall” events so far this year. A couple of those are now classified as “1000 year events,” the latest being in Louisiana where in some places 31 inches of rain, that is 2.5 feet, fell in less than 36 hours. (See related SACE blog and photos from Louisiana flooding here.)
This, my friends, is not normal. These are historic, extraordinary, life-threatening and life-disrupting events. The United States issued the first domestic infectious disease travel advisory since the 1950’s earlier this month for Florida over the spread of Zika virus. This is an historic advisory. (The FDA is now expanding the testing of blood for Zika in the United States.) SACE has a pregnant staff member in south Florida who is now effectively in a state of house arrest because of this vector borne tropical disease outbreak.
What ties these events together is climate change. Historic heat allows for the atmosphere to hold more water vapor, which leads to more torrential downpours, leading to record flooding. The heat shortens the development stages of mosquitoes and expands the geographic range. Then the rain allows for more breeding sites, which in turn allows for the rapid spread of the vector born tropical diseases. This has all been predicated with great accuracy and now is playing out in real time. TVA has made significant and historic progress in reducing carbon emissions, but there is more that needs to be done.
TVA staff put out a recent Request For Information for renewable energy and received a number of proposals. While we are not privy to the results, a recent study by DOE’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory shows that wind prices are at historic lows, in many cases lower than natural gas. One renewable energy project that represents a historic opportunity is the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project. This project has the potential to bring an unprecedented amount, 4,000 megawatts (MWs), of low-cost, zero-carbon clean energy to not only the TVA region but also to other southeastern states. The use of High Voltage Direct Current to move low cost wind to load centers without congestion on the transmission lines is an historic opportunity of national significance.
SACE strongly believes that this project deserves significant consideration. The low cost wind coupled with the concurrent transmission revenue that TVA will likely receive for wheeling the wind power to other recipients makes the deal more competitive for TVA consumers, even if your demand is low, by displacing higher cost fossil fuels.
What motivates our advocacy is the ability to further reduce the amount of carbon that is being released, leading to the historic events I shared earlier. We believe Clean Line is “in the money” or very close. It will help our region dramatically increase our use of clean, zero-carbon renewable energy, diversify our energy mix, and allow TVA to play a national leadership role in helping strategically develop our natural abundance of clean renewable energy in a cost effective way, thus decreasing our carbon output and helping others do the same. Those of you on the stage and many decision makers in this room, you are not just passive observers to these historic events. You have the ability to make historic decisions that will impact the course of history — all of our history.