The Tennessee Valley Authority recently finalized its Integrated Resource Plan, a “road map” for how it will obtain its energy for the next two decades.
“It’s meant to be a road map, not a decision document,” TVA spokesman Scott Brooks said. “What you see in the final IRP is a recognition that the future looks like there will be a lot more renewable energy.”
In fiscal 2018, TVA captured power from about 40 percent nuclear, 26 percent coal, 20 percent natural gas, 10 percent hydro, 3 percent wind and solar and 1 percent other.
In the next two decades, solar and natural gas will be “big players” and “there’s recognition that coal will still be an important part of the portfolio, but it will decrease over the next 20 years as the units reach the life span,” Brooks said.
Within the next decade, TVA suggested that the utility could add between 1,500 and 8,000 megawatts of solar capacity, and between 0 to 14,300 MW of gas capacity. TVA will also consider the addition of up to 1,800 MW of wind and up to 2,400 MW of storage.
TVA still plans to close the Paradise Fossil Plant in Drakesboro by 2020 and the Bull Run Fossil Plant in Anderson County, Tenn., by 2023.
For energy efficiency, TVA says it will “achieve savings up to 1,800 MW by 2028 and up to 2,200 MW by 2038.”
Energy efficiency can be considered an energy resource, and “from the technical side, energy efficiency is the cheapest resource,” said Maggie Shober, director of power market analytics at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Essentially, TVA could pay their customers to use less electricity through efficiency initiatives instead of spending money to build more power plants. For example, if the Department of Energy increases the baseline energy efficiency of refrigerators, then a customer that replaced an older model could reduce his or her monthly energy use. So TVA might pay customers $500 to purchase a new refrigerator instead of investing $500 toward a new power plant, according to Shober.
From the justice side, energy efficiency initiatives can help impoverished communities – which often live in poorly insulated, outdated homes – struggling to pay utility bills.
“TVA is a public power entity owned by the people,” Shober said. “They’re not supposed to be making a profit. Their focus should be bettering the lives of people in the Tennessee Valley. That’s why they were created in the 1930s.
“The fact that they did not do comprehensive modeling on energy efficiency is going to further those issues for residents across the Tennessee Valley.”
During the planning process for the IRP, TVA accepted public comments from customers throughout its service territory.
“There was a lot of interest in what we do with renewable energy and making sure we fulfill our mission in keeping energy affordable,” Brooks said. “We were certainly happy with the amount of public output and interest in this IRP, because that is important.”
The energy market can rapidly shift, which can make it challenging for utilities to plan their next two decades. During the two-year IRP process, for example, solar can change 10 percent or more, Shober said.
Shober applauded TVA’s commitment to boost solar power. But she said TVA used conservative cost estimates on the future of solar and less conservative estimates on new gas plants.
Shober stressed that energy planning processes need transparency – and TVA was not transparent.
“The level of info on what TVA provided they were actually doing was just minimal,” Shober said. “It was a very large document with lots of words in it.”
“Without a plan in place, how do we as TVA’s customers or stakeholders understand where they’re going? It’s supposed to be a roadmap, but TVA has basically said ‘we’re going somewhere between Maine and California.’ ”
The final IRP will be presented to TVA’s board of directors Aug. 22.