21st July 2024

The federally-owned electrical utility TVA has taken a key step towards an enormous enlargement of fossil gasoline infrastructure over the subsequent few years.

Maggie Shober | April 17, 2024 | Fossil Gasoline, Tennessee, Utilities

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Board of Administrators has taken a key step towards realizing TVA’s plans for a large build-out of latest fossil gasoline infrastructure. In an motion taken final August, however solely made public this month, the board deserted its oversight accountability and as an alternative delegated choice making authority to TVA’s CEO for a number of excessive stakes energy plant and pipeline tasks.

TVA is owned by the federal authorities, but the one actual oversight is thru its Board of Administrators, who’re appointed by the President of the USA. However whereas the Biden Administration has clear objectives to fight local weather change and scale back greenhouse fuel emissions, TVA is planning a large enlargement of fossil fuel. Fossil fuel, whereas as soon as erroneously touted as extra local weather pleasant than coal, is a significant carbon dioxide emitter and a major supply of methane, which is a stronger greenhouse fuel than carbon dioxide. The choice of the Board – the vast majority of whom had been appointed by President Biden – handy over choice making authority to the utility’s employees entrenches TVA’s path towards a dangerous, polluting vitality future, and undermines the Biden administration’s personal clear vitality and local weather ambitions.

It’s not as if TVA, the federal authorities’s personal electrical utility, is in the midst of the pack in proposals that may exacerbate local weather change. No, the federal utility is main the pack towards worsening the local weather disaster. TVA has probably the most deliberate new fossil gasoline energy plant capability by 2030 of any electrical utility within the nation. TVA’s plans embrace at the least 6,600 megawatts (MW) of latest fossil fuel energy plant capability and at the least 161 miles of latest fossil fuel pipelines.

Quote from SACE’s Maggie Shober on the TVA Board’s vote on the Kingston, Cheatham County, Allen, and New Caledonia fossil fuel crops in an article by WPLN’s Caroline Eggers from April 11, 2024.

These fossil tasks come at a monetary value, and that value might be borne by the residents of the Tennessee Valley for many years to return. TVA has already spent practically $5 billion on the Cumberland and Kingston fuel tasks alone: That’s greater than $1,600/kW to assemble these crops, which is properly over the most recent common development prices of $1,176-1,330/kW for related fuel crops utilized by the EIA in annual evaluation, and these TVA tasks are nowhere close to completed. TVA’s spending on so many fossil gasoline tasks led to a major charge improve final yr, and is placing the utility susceptible to hitting its $30 billion debt restrict. Since TVA passes gasoline prices on to prospects, and fuel costs are risky, additionally it is risking buyer payments attributable to future worth spikes.

And do we have to proceed to remind TVA that it had its first ever occasion of rolling blackouts in December of 2022 when fossil gasoline infrastructure, each coal and fuel, failed? But photo voltaic helped maintain the grid limping alongside, and wind within the Midwest was accessible however couldn’t get to the Valley. From a local weather, monetary, and reliability threat perspective, TVA shouldn’t be investing in additional fossil fuel.

TVA Fossil Gasoline Area Day

TVA has introduced plans to construct 6,600 MW of latest fossil fuel capability at eight places, and has one other 2,250 MW of fuel at a ninth location at the moment in its interconnection queue. A number of of those plans contain new pipeline infrastructure to convey fossil fuel to a location that doesn’t at the moment have entry to it. TVA’s plans are to have all of this capability on-line and working by the tip of 2028: lower than 4 years away.

Moreover, TVA has been proposing and approving every of those fossil fuel crops in succession, as an alternative of via a broader Built-in Useful resource Plan (IRP) course of. This fossil bonanza began with TVA’s proposal to interchange retiring combustion generators (CTs) at its Allen and Johnsonville places with newer and larger CTs at its Paradise and Colbert places, after which set up further aero CTs (i.e. jet engines) at its Johnsonville location. Then, the actually huge proposals began coming: TVA proposed to interchange its Cumberland coal plant with 1,450 MW fossil fuel mixed cycle (CC) and a greenfield fuel pipeline, and proposed to interchange its Kingston coal plant with 1,500 MW fossil fuel CC and CTs and a token quantity of photo voltaic and storage. The truth is, the photo voltaic at Kingston is so small relative to the fuel, it will probably solely be rightly understood as performative greenwashing.

As these fossil proposals transfer via TVA’s decision-making course of, which is exclusive within the nation due to the comparatively few regulatory hoops TVA should soar via to begin spending billions of ratepayer {dollars}, the utility has continued to suggest increasingly new fuel: 900 MW at a greenfield location in Cheatham County; a further 200 MW on the Allen website in Memphis (a location that’s already beleaguered with environmental justice points); and 500 MW on the New Caledonia location in Mississippi, the one location not within the state of Tennessee.

TVA Board Rubber Stamp

At its August 2023 assembly, the TVA Board of Administrators adopted a decision that handed the buck on the Kingston fossil fuel plant and pipeline, in addition to the brand new fossil fuel crops at Cheatham County, Allen, and New Caledonia. In a surprising abdication of accountability, the TVA Board successfully permitted 4 new fossil fuel tasks and deferred to the CEO the authority to find out that every one environmental opinions had been accomplished accurately.

Excerpt of the finances decision handed by the TVA Board of Administrators in August 2023.

One other disturbing a part of this course of is the secrecy surrounding all of it. Whereas it was publicly identified that the motion taken at that August 2023 board assembly was approving the 2024 annual finances and a charge improve, it was not publicly identified that the board decision can be granting approval to maneuver ahead on a number of excessive profile fuel energy tasks. Certainly one board member particularly requested CEO Jeff Lyash to substantiate that the approval of the finances wouldn’t give last approval to any tasks, which he did. However when information outlet WPLN submitted in October 2023 a Freedom of Data Act (FOIA) request to TVA to offer an inventory of tasks inside the annual finances, TVA withheld the knowledge till March of this yr–only a week earlier than TVA introduced last approval of the massive Kingston fuel mission.

TVA Board and President Biden Ought to Reign In Fossil Gasoline Bonanza

The TVA Board, which solutions to the Biden Administration, can nonetheless reverse course and align the federal utility with President Biden’s clear vitality and local weather objectives, and assist be certain that TVA fulfills its necessities below the Nationwide Environmental Coverage Act (NEPA). For Kingston, the TVA Board can vote to require that TVA carry out a supplemental Environmental Affect Assertion (EIS) to repair the deficiencies in TVA’s Ultimate EIS recognized by the Environmental Safety Company (EPA). The EPA made it clear that the Kingston EIS doesn’t meet the requirements for NEPA, but TVA’s CEO continues to assert that it does. Subsequently, it’s as much as the Board to step in and guarantee TVA follows the legislation.

As well as, the TVA Board can take again the authority to vote on a last choice on the remaining three fuel crops which can be nonetheless early within the planning course of. That is possible best finished when the Board votes on one other finances this August.

Will the TVA Board of Administrators, which has a majority of Biden appointees, get the federal utility to reign on this fossil gasoline bonanza? Will TVA, the most important public energy utility within the nation, take heed to the purchasers it serves and cease making choices that may solely make local weather change worse?

SACE will maintain advocating for TVA to tug again on these fossil gasoline plans, and as an alternative work with us on a future plan centered on clear vitality technology at scale, increasing electrical transmission, constructing out vitality storage, and implementing win-win demand facet applications. Keep tuned for extra information because it turns into accessible.

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