The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

Activists urge TVA to take advantage of historic US climate bill for energy-efficiency improvements

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TVA 1 2048x1365A hopper car on a train filled with coal to be delivered to a TVA coal-fired plant. John Partipilo/Tennessee Lookout

Climate bill designates TVA as a potential recipient of clean energy investments and loans

This story was originally published by Tennessee Lookout.

KNOXVILLE  Clean-energy advocates are urging the Tennessee Valley Authority to use funds provided through the Inflation Reduction Act to deliver environmentally friendly energy to Tennessee customers. 

The massive bill Congress passed Friday includes $370 billion for clean energy investments and listed TVA as an entity that is eligible to take advantage of clean energy credits and loans to significantly reduce the cost of energy-efficient infrastructure. 

On Aug. 12, the Clean Up TVA Coalition, including the Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Appalachian Voices, urged TVA to take advantage of the legislation and make funds available to its affiliated local power companies, which can then offer energy-efficient options for customers.

“This bill is a game changer for electric utilities’ long term energy planning,” said Sudeep Ghantasala, an organizer with Sunrise Movement Nashville, in a press release. “TVA is foolish to miss out on this opportunity to reconsider its energy choices to align with community demands and the President’s climate mandate. We can’t waste time on risky false solutions. TVA should lead with solar, energy efficiency, and storage.”

TVA officials initially said the legislation would have little impact on their current plan to decarbonize and be “net-zero” by 2050. 

“We have already reduced our carbon output by more than 55% since 2005, with an aspiration toward being carbon free by 2050,” said TVA spokesperson Scott Brooks.

But TVA is currently reviewing the legislation, according to Brooks, which “could provide clean energy opportunities and benefits to the communities across our seven-state region.”

TVA is also moving forward with their plans to build a natural gas plant despite concerns from clean energy advocates. 

“Skyrocketing prices and ever-intensifying storms put families at risk. More dirty energy is not the solution — it’s the fuel feeding this energy and climate injustice. TVA must press the accelerator on building a resilient, affordable, and renewable energy future,” said Amy Kelly, representative of the Sierra Club’s Tennessee Beyond Coal Campaign.

Natural gas prices are also growing increasingly volatile as temperatures soar in Europe and demand for U.S. natural gas increases. Local power companies may soon be competing with companies exporting natural gas to other countries. 

“This summer we saw how international prices for natural gas can result in greatly increased utility bills in Tennessee during the summer. We’re also going to see in the winter how that price volatility will result in higher prices,” said Scott Banbury, spokesperson for the Tennessee chapter of the Sierra Club.

“TVA’s mission to provide low-cost public power would be better served in investing in renewable energy than linking cost of power to increasingly volatile gas prices,” he added.

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