Contact: Jennifer Rennicks, SACE, [email protected], 865-235-1448
Knoxville, Tenn. (September 7, 2017) – For the first time in almost 35 years, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is proposing to drastically narrow the circumstances in which it seeks public input into decisions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). TVA’s proposal coincides with indications that the regional utility is working behind the scenes to change its electric rates to discourage customer investment in energy saving technologies in general, and solar power in particular.
Recently TVA published “A New Pricing Paradigm” on its website, stating that, “We are looking at a model in which the more energy you use, the more price goes down.” This rate structure rewards greater energy usage by the customer, and can lead to increases in bills for thrifty energy consumers who may be charged for the increased costs of new generation.
“TVA is justifying its rollback of public participation in ratemaking by claiming that rate changes have never impacted energy use,” said Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s executive director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith. “Claiming that rates do not impact energy use is absurd on its face: of course they do and will continue to. Penalizing customers who invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy is not good policy.”
TVA’s “New Pricing Paradigm” also asserts that “[t]he fairest way to incorporate renewable energy is to build large-scale solar.” Smith continues, “TVA has been constricting solar choices for customers over the past few years. The proposed changes to public input could exclude the impact of TVA’s rates on customer energy choices from consideration.”
TVA is the largest unregulated utility in the Southeast. Although TVA will still be required to comply with NEPA generally, if TVA’s proposed changes become official policy, TVA will give itself even more discretion to decide when and if it should inform the public of its decisions.
“We believe that TVA should only extend categorical exclusions to those actions that would clearly have minimal impact on public health and the environment, such as human resource decisions,” said Dr. Smith, “and keep the door open for the public to engage in important decisions that affect customer’s pocketbooks and public health.”
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that work to address the impacts of Global Climate Change and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org