TVA board candidates back exploration of clean energy options as federal utilities plan to phase out coal


Diving brief:

  • As the Tennessee Valley Authority considers options to replace two coal-fired power plants, three candidates for the federal electric utility’s board of directors told a Senate panel on Wednesday they would consider adding more power renewable to the VAT system.
  • “TVA should be at the forefront of ensuring fair prices for taxpayers, encouraging energy efficiency and moving quickly to cleaner energy production,” the Senate Environment said. and Public Works Committee Chairman Tom Carper, D-Del., said in a statement. “While TVA has already made progress towards a clean energy transition, other private utilities have far exceeded TVA’s clean energy and energy efficiency commitments.”
  • A day before the confirmation hearing, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club and other groups formed the Clean Up TVA Coalition to pressure the federal utility to phase out its gas emissions greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 against its goal of reducing emissions by 80% by 2035.

Overview of the dive:

As TVA is about to make major decisions about its production fleet, the status of its nine-member board of directors has become obvious.

“They are the VAT regulator”, Maggie Shober, director of research for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said Thursday. “They are the ultimate decision makers of the direction of TVA’s strategy.”

There are only five members sitting on the board of directors, the minimum necessary to make decisions. Two members have terms that end in May, although they are allowed to stay until Congress ends its session at the end of the year. The current members were nominated by former President Donald Trump.

During the nomination hearing for the Senate Air Quality, Climate, and Nuclear Safety Subcommittee, panel chairman Ed Markey, D-Mass., urged TVA to add more renewable energy to its generation portfolio, which it believes would be cheaper and better for the environment. than fossil fuel power plants.

TVA got 3% of its electricity from wind and solar last year compared to 13% for the United States, according to Markey.

“I grew up really thinking TVA was on the cutting edge of technology and it’s pretty obvious there’s no movement here technologically,” Markey said.

Ranking member James Inhofe, R-Okla., said replacing coal generation with gas-fired power plants would be cheaper and more reliable than swapping with wind and solar.

TVA, which provides electricity to around 10 million people in the Southeast, owns five coal-fired power stations totaling 6,580 MW, which the utility plans to retire by 2035. They accounted for 15% of the Electricity Supply from Federal Electricity Distributor Last Year, According to Latest TVA Report Annual Report.

Nuclear generation accounted for 41% of TVA’s electricity supply last year, followed by power plants that burn gas and/or oil at 21%, hydroelectricity at 10%, power purchase contracts fossil energy at 8% and PPA renewables at 5%. The TVA is adding 2,000 MW of gas-fired generation, which it expects to be fully online by the end of 2024.

The TVA plans to retire its 765 MW coal-fired Bull Run power plant at the end of next year. It also plans to retire and replace two other coal-fired plants: the 2,470 MW Cumberland plant and the 1,300 MW Kingston plant.

The TVA is evaluating three options to replace the Cumberland and Kingston plants: new combined cycle plants, new combustion turbines, and wind and solar plants.

In November, TVA’s board of directors authorized TVA’s CEO Jeffrey Lyash decide if and how to replace the Cumberland and Kingston plants, with a budget of $3.5 billion.

TVA plans to publish a draft Environmental Impact Assessment assessing its options for the Cumberland plant this month and a draft EIA for the Kingston plant in late summer, according to a letter of February to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is investigating federal utility electricity rates and decarbonization efforts.

No decision has been made on how to replace the coal-fired plants, according to Scott Fielder, spokesman for TVA.

However, gas-fired generation offers multiple benefits, Fielder said in an email Thursday.

Short-term natural gas production helps offset the generating capacity we lose as we retire coal-fired units, and it’s cleaner and more efficient than coal,” Fielder said. “Longer term, natural gas allows us to reliably add more renewable generation while new technologies are still being developed, such as better energy storage and nuclear technology.”

Gas-fired generation can be used to integrate intermittent renewable energy into its system, according to Fielder.

It seems that the TVA intends to replace the Cumberland and Kingston plants with gas-fired plants, Shober from SACE said, noting that the Federal Public Service has begun the process of obtaining federal approval a gas pipeline to supply a possible 1,450 MW power station to replace one of the Cumberland units.

Adding more generation to gas will increase TVA’s exposure to gas price fluctuations induced by international markets, according to Shober.

The Clean Up TVA Coalition will attempt to steer the federal public service towards renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency, Shober said.

On another issue facing the TVA board, Memphis Light Gas & Water, which accounts for 10% of the federal utility’s electricity sales, is consider leaving VAT to import electricity from the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, according to Shober.

Preliminary analysis found that MLGW could save up to $400 million a year by leaving TVA, Shober said, adding that the utility was reviewing the results of a request for proposals and expected to make a decision later this year.

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