Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, March 8, 2023


Gaby Sarri-Tobar, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 594-7271,
Patrick Knight, Synapse, (617) 453-7051,
Taylor McNair, GridLab, (510) 519-4208,

Report: TVA Clean-Energy Transition Could Create Jobs, Save Billions

WASHINGTON— The nation’s largest public utility, the Tennessee Valley Authority, could create thousands of new jobs, improve public health, and help meet President Biden’s climate pledge if it transitions to 100% clean energy by 2035, according to a new study.

The study, TVA’s Clean Energy Future, was released today by Synapse Energy Economics, the Center for Biological Diversity, and GridLab. Using state-of-the-art energy modeling, it outlines how TVA can immediately begin retiring its fossil fuel plants and replacing them with clean energy — reliably and affordably. Under TVA’s current energy plans, the massive utility wouldn’t reach carbon-free electricity by 2050, undermining Biden’s 2035 clean energy targets.

“The study shows that the country’s largest public utility can help meet Biden’s climate goals and put money in people’s pockets, boost local economies, and save lives,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, an energy justice campaigner at the Center. “There’s no excuse for TVA to keep obstructing the clean energy transition and serving as a poster child for dangerous, fossil fuel-burning utilities. Instead of being a mega-polluter, TVA needs to tap back into its pioneering roots and show the whole country what a just transition to a clean, resilient, affordable energy future looks like.”

By transitioning to 100% clean energy, TVA could create 15,600 new jobs a year, reduce the percentage of household income spent on energy, and generate nearly $27 billion in public health benefits, the study shows. The agency, created a century ago under the New Deal, could be a national laboratory to model a clean-energy transition.

“I have been urging TVA leadership to rethink its plan to build up natural gas as a ‘bridge’ to renewables, and this important study clearly endorses that approach,” said Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. “TVA could and can set a good example for the entire electrical utility industry by making an uncompromising commitment to moving away from fossil fuel-based generation and embracing the future. I am hopeful this work will stimulate further efforts in that direction.”

Switching from fossil fuels in the electric sector and increasing electrification in the building, transportation and industrial sectors would save people in the TVA region $255 billion by 2050, the study shows. It would also reduce household energy costs, increase employment, reduce toxic air pollution, and mitigate the harms of the climate crisis.

Clean energy tax credits under the Inflation Reduction Act increase opportunities to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and electrify other economic sectors.

“TVA can launch an economy-wide clean energy revolution that directly benefits the people it was created a century ago to serve,” said Patrick Knight, a senior principal with Synapse and the study’s lead author. “Our data show the agency can reliably and affordably accelerate deployment of renewable energy resources to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035.”

TVA’s board, the Biden administration, Congress, and local power companies can take steps to propel TVA to 100% clean energy. An accompanying policy report recommends that TVA’s nine-member board immediately draft plans to achieve 100% clean energy by 2035, expand renewable and distributed energy, and address the harms that the utility’s fossil fuel reliance has inflicted on environmental justice communities.

“We’re hopeful the TVA board, local power companies and policymakers will use this new information to move quickly toward 100% clean energy in the Tennessee Valley and inspire other utilities to follow,” said Taylor McNair, program manager at GridLab.

The study shows that zero-emission resources like solar and wind provide affordable and resilient energy, a critical factor as climate change-fueled weather extremes increase. In December thousands of families in the Tennessee Valley region were left without essential heating and electricity for several days when major coal and gas plants failed during Winter Storm Elliott.

Under TVA CEO Jeff Lyash, who earned more than $8 million in pay and bonuses last year, the agency gets just 3% of its energy supply from solar and wind. TVA has the second-largest planned gas buildout by 2030 among all major utilities and recently decided to replace its retiring Cumberland coal plant with a 1,450-megawatt gas plant and pipeline. It ranks in the top 10 among the 100 largest electric power producers in the United States and averages 50 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year.

TVA recently announced an 18-month study on ways to reduce carbon pollution in the Tennessee Valley. The utility has yet to release plans on the role of renewable energy and distributed resources, how the public can be involved, or how its study will be integrated into upcoming long-term energy planning.

TVA is a federally owned corporation that generates electricity for more than 10 million customers in Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

GridLab is an innovative non-profit that provides technical grid expertise to enhance policy decision-making and to ensure a rapid transition to a reliable, cost-effective, and low carbon future.

Synapse Energy Economics is a research and consulting firm focused on the intersection of energy, economics, and the environment. Since 1996, we've provided rigorous technical, quantitative, and policy analysis to help public interest and governmental clients improve planning, policies, and decision-making in the energy sector.

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