The Plains and Eastern Clean Line project went through a multi-year, rigorous, environmental impact statement process with flying colors. However, large utility power purchase agreements were necessary to financially anchor such a project. After nearly eight years of development, with all federal permits secured, Clean Line still needed TVA to sign up and agree to buy a portion – 500-1,000 MWs of wind power. TVA’s President Bill Johnson strung the Clean Line partners along for several years, never really negotiating in good faith. Johnson claims to be “agnostic” on energy sources, but his track record at Progress Energy and now at TVA is one of building large natural gas projects and supporting troubled nuclear projects; he does not understand renewable technologies, thinks they are a threat to the traditional utility business model, and brings this narrow thinking to his leadership position at TVA.
- TVA’s own 2015 Integrated Resource Plan (a long-term plan) called for purchasing up to 1,750 megawatts of low-cost HVDC wind energy resources.
- Recent wind power purchase agreements from Oklahoma have reached record lows, and Oklahoma recently set a record for wind power penetration. According to the Energy Information Administration, Tennessee’s average electricity price is significantly higher than Oklahoma’s.
- The recent cold snap had TVA begging its customers to reduce power demand – at a time when wind power would have provided significant energy resources.
Corporations and electric companies are clamoring for low-cost wind power. In 2016, major corporations, including Kellogg’s, General Motors, Facebook, Honda, Westlake Chemical, IKEA, Unilever and others, wrote to the TVA encouraging wind power purchases. Businesses like these and members of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry are eager for power price stability, and because wind power has zero fuel cost, there is zero price volatility. TVA has flat out ignored those companies, at the risk of halting economic development in the region.
TVA’s hostility towards renewable energy puts its ratepayers, and the region, at risk of higher costs for dirty energy and keeps TVA dependent on fossil fuels like gas and coal. The failure to execute on such a important project shows that current TVA leadership under Bill Johnson is more interested in top down, antiquated, monopolistic thinking instead of TVA being an innovative leader bringing new technologies like HVDC, high-capacity wind and clean solar on to the power grid and into our region. Crowing about bringing a forty year old nuclear plant online that was built with 1970s technology, and overbuilding natural gas units that replace aged coal plants while failing to address the serious coal ash issues in the TVA region is not environmentally responsible leadership. Johnson’s lack of respect and concern for the region’s natural resources will be a black mark on his leadership record.
SACE will be drawing attention to this new renewable energy hostility of TVA current leadership. When it comes to clean energy and environmental protection, TVA should lead or get out of the way.