This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.Guest Blog | August 1, 2018
Our communities deserve affordable, clean energy, but Tennessee is falling behind the rest of the South. Consumers’ rights to transparency and accountability are being ignored, and too many decisions are being made behind closed doors without listening to the people. That’s why we’re launching Renew Tennessee – a new campaign to renew Tennessee’s commitment to affordable, clean energy that creates jobs, powers communities and improves lives throughout the entire Valley. While this campaign is just getting off the ground, volunteers and allies across the state are already working together to tackle some big challenges to Renew the Volunteer State:
First is our utility bills. On average, low-income households in TVA’s service territory spend 12.6 % of their annual household income on energy costs (that’s double the national average). And some Tennesseans pay as much as 20% of their income on utility bills. You read that correctly… 20%. Meanwhile, the TVA Board recently approved a new fixed charge, which will disproportionately harm low-income households, despite a record breaking number of advocates providing public comments at the board meetings voicing their opposition to this new charge.
Next on the list is clean energy. Tennessee lags others in the Southeast on solar installations that could be creating jobs and lowering bills. While many power companies throughout the region are taking advantage of that sunshine with ever-growing solar portfolios, TVA is failing miserably. In fact, the state is on track for the worst solar year since 2011.
And we can’t forget about voter registration. The Volunteer State ranks 50th in voter turnout and 40th in voter registration. In total, there are around 750,000 unregistered minority, single women and under-30-year-old potential voters – 750,000 Tennesseans whose voices are effectively silenced because they aren’t taking advantage of the power of the ballot box.
The most frustrating part of many of the issues is that state leaders, including TVA, are making too many decisions behind closed doors. Our leaders are completely out of touch with reality. TVA’s CEO, Bill Johnson, the highest paid federal employee in the entire country, took home over $6.5 million dollars in total compensation in 2017 and has spent the last few years on a spending spree buying TVA corporate jets, airplanes, and a luxury helicopter.
Think this is unacceptable? Want to make a difference? The good news is that we are by no means starting from scratch. Join with thousands of other Tennesseans across the Valley that are signing on and standing up to tackle these issues! The Renew Tennessee campaign encompasses all the great work volunteers and allies have already been participating in over the past few years: Maybe you’ve spoken at TVA board meeting or helped to register new voters. Maybe you’ve been a part of the Memphis Has the Power movement to tackle the energy burden and push for weatherization grants for lower-income communities. Or, maybe you’ve newly signed up to join the Renew Tennessee movement and are looking for how to get involved right away.
Renew Tennessee is a campaign that brings all those issues together – so whether you are passionate about improving voter turnout, seeing more clean energy in the state, or holding our leaders more accountable (or maybe all of the above!) this is the campaign for you. Because we’re always more powerful when we join forces to tackle these issues together. Together we can push Tennessee to be the state we know it can be. After all, TVA was “built by the people” and it’s time that our state leaders start listening to what the people really want.
To hit the ground running and get involved with Renew Tennessee ASAP, visit our new webpage, RenewTN.org and click “Get Involved.” Join the movement by signing up today, and we will connect you with all sorts of events and opportunities taking place across the Valley! An organizer in Tennessee will follow up with you directly – We want to hear YOUR ideas on how to Renew Tennessee. Join us today.