TVA relying less on coal-fired plants

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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The Tennessee Valley Authority, like many Southern energy companies, is busy decommissioning coal-fired power plants in favor of renewables that can be intermittent sources of generation during peak times.

TVA, in fact, plans to close its Bull Run facility next year and then its final four coal plants by 2035 as it has now retired 34 coal plants and approximately 10,215 megawatts of capacity since 2013.

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In 2005, TVA relied on coal for 57% of its power and lowered that to 14% in 2020 while increasing from 26% nuclear power to 41% in 2020.

TVA says that it wants to reduce its 2005 carbon levels by 70% by 2030, 80% by 2035 and 100% by 2050.

“Like any good public power organization … we’re committed to public service,” Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO, said earlier this month. “So we recognize that, in the long term, we need to continue to make progress on reducing our carbon emissions but we need to do it while keeping the price affordable, or reliability high and building an ever-more resilient system.”

TVA is federally owned and serves 10 million by providing electricity to 153 local power companies.

TVA increased its use of natural gas to generate power from 7% to 27% from 2005 to 2020, a concern with the rising costs of natural gas, which increased in cost 141% from June 2022 to June 2021.

Despite that increase, TVA’s effective power rate increased just 11% over that same period, ranking Tennessee 41st in electricity prices in the U.S.

Lyash said that a large challenge will be keeping up with increased demand for electricity and looking at new energy options but also maintaining a reliance on nuclear power generation with the use of small modular reactors.

“Our challenge is going to be to de-carbonize the current electricity system,” Lyash said. “The larger challenge is how do you maintain carbon-free assets to serve what could be a 50% to 100% increase in terawatt hour consumption over the next three decades, driven by electrification.”

Tennessee had 12,000 electric vehicles registered in 2021, which was above neighboring Alabama (4,700), Mississippi (1,300), Kentucky (4,200) and Arkansas (2,400) but below North Carolina (25,200), Georgia (34,000), Missouri (10,000) and Florida (95,600).