Former TVA Chair, David Freeman, Joins Clean Energy Organization as Senior Energy Advisor

Freeman and Smith Critical of TVA’s Actions in the Midst of a Pandemic

April 29, 2020
Contact: Contact: Kate Tracy, SACE, 865-235-1448, [email protected]

Knoxville, Tennessee – This week, David Freeman, former chair of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors, joins the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as a Senior Energy Advisor. Freeman is a renowned expert on clean energy, energy efficiency, and the risks of nuclear power with more than four decades of experience directing federal, regional, and local energy policies.

On Wednesday, April 29th S. David Freeman and SACE’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, held a media availability to discuss Freeman’s role advising SACE’s energy policy work in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida, and concerns they share with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. A digital recording of the media availability/press conference is here.

Freeman will provide guidance to SACE’s technical-based advocacy efforts to accelerate carbon emission reductions in the energy and transportation sectors and protect ratepayers across the Southeast.

In response, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy said, “It is an honor to have S. David Freeman join our team as a senior advisor. The challenges of how we transition our production and use of energy to cleaner, more efficient, lower-carbon sources have never been greater nor more urgent. David’s experience and knowledge of these issues are unmatched in the industry.”

One key issue Freeman and SACE are collaborating on is the possible departure of Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW) from the TVA system. Every year, MLGW pays roughly $1 billion dollars to TVA for energy to power the City of Memphis. If MLGW were to leave TVA’s system, preliminary studies suggest that the Memphis utility could save hundreds of millions of dollars in annual power costs – savings that could be passed along to its customers who face some of the highest energy burdens in the nation.

In addition to tracking MLGW’s possible departure from the TVA system, Freeman and SACE are both concerned with TVA’s operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically TVA’s decision to invest ratepayer dollars in highly-produced, widely-circulated television ads promoting TVA as a “public” power entity during a period of historically-high unemployment. According to the U.S. Energy Information Association (EIA), in 2018 the average Tennessean used more electricity than residential customers in any other state and paid the sixth-highest energy bills. Those high energy bills could be reduced with energy efficiency programs that create good-paying local jobs that could boost local economies in cities like Memphis. SACE has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to TVA on ad spending, which can be accessed here.

“I’m deeply concerned about TVA’s current direction and actions in the middle of this terrible pandemic. I do not understand how a federal monopoly can justify spending potentially millions of dollars on public relations television advertising when many of their customers are out of work and struggling to pay the power bills. The money spent on ads would be better spent helping customers and communities across the Valley lower their high energy bills with robust energy efficiency programs,” said David Freeman, Senior Energy Advisory at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “These slick TV ads are antithetical to TVA’s historical mission. Until recently, good works done with frugal humility was all that was needed for a supportive public. In this age of excessive executive salaries, corporate jets, and fancy helicopters, it appears TVA needs to use political campaign style-TV ads to manipulate public opinion in the Valley.”

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, expressed the need now, more than ever, for transparency, “We demand TVA, as a publicly-funded federal monopoly, release information on how much ratepayers’ funds are being spent to produce these manipulative ads which are saturating the TV, radio and the internet the middle of a health pandemic. It appears that TVA is heavily targeting the Memphis market in an effort to brainwash customers into loyal support of TVA, while the local power company, Memphis Light, Gas and Water (MLGW), is looking at more cost-effective power supply outside of TVA because studies have shown it may save hundreds of millions of dollars annually for Memphis citizens. If TVA wants to build support in Memphis, and throughout the Valley, it should help struggling customers lower and pay their electric bills, instead of sending likely millions of their ratepayer dollars to a corporate advertising firm in these trying times. TVA’s current values are not public power values.”

About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at