Nation’s largest public utility should lead the South and nation in decarbonizing the electric power sector
Knoxville, Tenn. – The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to play a leading role in guiding the nation toward a low-cost, carbon-free electricity grid by formally setting a target to be a carbon-free power system by 2030.
Excessive carbon emissions caused by human activities, such as burning fossil fuels, have contributed to a level of global warming that now poses an existential threat to human life as well as ecological systems, according to top climate experts. To avoid the worst impacts of climate change, carbon emissions must be reduced to net-zero by mid-century, and President Biden has set an interim goal of decarbonizing the nation’s electric grid by 2035.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “Tomorrow the Biden Administration will announce an important infrastructure package, which is expected to include a Clean Electricity Standard as a vital policy to help the utility sector to decarbonize. As the nation’s largest public power utility and as an extension of the Administration, TVA should lead by example by demonstrating the path to zero carbon. The infrastructure bill is the right mechanism and applying a clean energy standard is the right methodology to meet these goals.”
Utility sector decarbonization is achievable by implementing a federal clean energy standard with robust clean energy investments and justice-centered policies, according to a report by Evergreen Collaborative, “A Roadmap to 100% Clean Electricity by 2035”.
Maggie Shober, Director of Utility Reform of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said, “TVA led the nation at its founding as an innovative clean-energy powered utility, and is well-positioned to do so again with a portfolio that already includes significant non-carbon resources, including hydroelectric capacity and a large hydro pumped storage facility, which are national assets. TVA has already moved in the right direction but has yet to commit to the goal of a carbon-free power system. Utilities, including TVA, are not going to do this without an external push from a policy like the clean energy standard. The electric sector is not going to become carbon-free through market forces alone.”
Founded in the 1930s as a 100% renewable energy-powered utility charged with promoting environmental stewardship, job creation, and innovation, TVA has strayed considerably from that original mission. TVA’s historic underinvestment in energy efficiency and reliance on expensive coal plants continues to create a high wholesale power cost, making the TVA territory home to some of the highest energy burdens for ratepayers in the country. Some local power companies are investigating the feasibility of departing from TVA’s system in order to procure cleaner, lower-cost power elsewhere.
TVA’s “public power model” and public service mission should obligate it to be a leader. With clear direction, TVA can and should lead this critical national mission of decarbonizing the electricity grid to once again be a model of innovative environmental stewardship and job creation by implementing the clean energy standard that President Biden has called for in order to build back the pandemic-stressed U.S. economy and ailing infrastructure.
About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible and equitable energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.