WASHINGTON— The Tennessee Valley Authority’s new board members will have the legal authority to transform the nation’s largest public power provider from a fossil-fuel utility to a renewable energy pioneer, according to a report released today by the Center for Biological Diversity.
The report, From Climate Laggard to Climate Leader, outlines eight steps the board can take to align with President Biden’s executive order mandating 100% carbon-free electricity by 2035. Currently TVA plans to expand its use of fracked gas into the next decade, despite the worsening climate emergency, unreliability of fossil fuel energy and jacked-up energy prices.
“We’re running out of time and our country’s largest electric provider can’t keep dragging its feet on climate,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, energy justice campaigner at the Center. “TVA’s new board can pivot this massive utility from climate laggard to renewable energy leader and pioneer the just, resilient energy future our country needs. These board members can revolutionize our broken, racist energy system. The country and the planet can’t afford for them to squander this opportunity.”
Biden has appointed five new members to the nine-member board, and all five are awaiting Senate confirmation. To comply with Biden’s energy order, the report says the new board must retire its coal plants and phase out the use of all fossil fuels, lift restrictions and expand renewable and distributed energy, increase public participation and strictly enforce its conflict-of-interest policy.
According to its own energy projections, TVA will produce more than 34 million tons of carbon emissions by 2038. TVA is one of the country’s largest emitters, ranking in the top 10 among the 100 largest electric power producers and averaging 50 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year.
“It’s time for TVA to lead the transition off our antiquated fossil fuel system,” said Marquita Bradshaw, executive director with Sowing Justice. “Our communities are burdened by high bills and pollution and the climate emergency threatens our access to safe, resilient energy. To avert disaster and build a more just energy future TVA’s board must dig back into the utility’s innovation roots and lead the way with renewables like solar and wind.”
The utility has the second-largest planned gas buildout by 2030 among all major utilities. TVA lags other utilities in solar and clean energy investment. Currently just 3% of TVA’s energy supply comes from solar and wind.
TVA is obstructing renewable energy expansion through restrictive policies that hamper local power companies’ flexibility to obtain clean energy and discriminatory charges that discourage residents from choosing rooftop solar.
“TVA has been on a multi-year journey to eviscerate its energy-efficiency programs and eliminate its support for distributed energy resources,” said Daniel Tait, executive director of Energy Alabama. “Many of TVA’s local power companies want to do more but are severely restricted by a heavy-handed TVA that has lost touch with the experiences of regular folks.”
TVA’s policies have hit communities hard, disproportionately burdening communities of color and low-wealth residents who are facing compounding climate and energy justice crises. Residents in the mostly rural TVA region experience some of the highest energy burdens in the country, with some paying monthly electricity bills upwards of $200. Equitable access to energy efficiency and distributed energy would help make bills affordable and build community resilience in the face of intensifying climate disasters.
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.