Chattanooga, Tenn. – The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) addressed several items with large implications at their quarterly board meeting today, including a vote on the ultimate recommendation to retire both Paradise Unit 3 and Bull Run, two aging coal plants in Kentucky and Tennessee respectively; a unanimous decision on the cancelation of TVA’s long-standing customer-owned solar program Green Power Providers (GPP); and the unanimous appointment of Jeffrey Lyash (currently CEO of Ontario Power Generation) as the new CEO to replace the retiring Bill Johnson.
During the discussion of retiring Paradise Unit 3, Trump appointee and former coal executive Kenny Allen voiced his opposition, but was outvoted by the other board members, who agreed that retirement was the smart, economical decision. The vote to cancel the GPP program was unanimous, with board member Frazier questioning why even continue the program through the end of the year. There was a mention that a yet-to-be developed program would replace GPP, but no details or commitments on the program or the process for its development were provided. The cancelation of GPP comes on the heels of TVA’s delay of their other solar program Distributed Solar Solutions (DSS). With today’s votes, the future of rooftop solar for residents and business owners in the TVA service territory is more uncertain than ever. Current contracts will be honored, but there is no certainty what will be offered after 2019.
TVA also announced a 2-year pilot for larger-scale solar development by TVA and Local Power Companies (LPCs) for up to 350 MW of load. While this is a step in the right direction, the time for pilots has passed. TVA should establish a modern solar program that provides accessibility to all customers and certainty to developers, as well as contract flexibility for LPCs.
At the very end of the board meeting, it was announced that a former Progress Energy colleague, Jeffrey Lyash, will succeed TVA’s outgoing president and CEO, Bill Johnson, later this spring. Despite calls for more transparency in TVA’s decision making processes, no details about Lyash or the other top candidate were provided to any stakeholders prior to the announcement. Lyash, who has served as the top executive at Ontario Power Generation since 2015, spent most of his 30 year utility-sector career in North Carolina and Florida first with Progress Energy and later Duke Energy.
Dr. Stephen A. Smith, Executive Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, was at the board meeting and provided the following statement:
“We applaud TVA for making the right decision and for ignoring President Trump’s Tweet and misguided support for dirty, uneconomical coal. That said, the decision to also cancel the rooftop solar program without having a solid plan for a replacement signifies the low priority that TVA places on responding to their customers’ wishes to have accessible and well-designed solar programs for both homes and small businesses. It is our hope that the planning process for the suggested new solar programs will happen in a transparent and responsive manner, taking into consideration feedback from the many different types of stakeholders that these decisions impact.
“In regards to the appointment of Jeffrey Lyash, we welcome him to TVA and hope that we can work in a collaborative way with him. It is our sincere desire that Lyash will be receptive to open dialogue and work to put the public back in public power for customers large and small. The appearance that Johnson handpicked one of his friends as his successor in a non-transparent manner is of grave concern.”