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Let’s, as citizens, help the TVA in its upcoming decision


By: Frances Lamberts

“TVA weighs coal-to-gas plant switch,” the headline of an AP article carried by the Johnson City Press said on May 13. If referenced the Tennessee Valley Authority’s now ongoing deliberations concerning how to replace the electricity-generating capacity of its coal-fired Cumberland plant when this is to be closed because old and now economically inefficient.

With two generating units, the plant is the largest in TVA’s coal fleet. It currently plans to retire one unit no later than 2030, the second no later than 2033.

The AP article failed to mention that TVA is seek- ing the public’s input on its plans for maintaining the plant’s generation capacity – which is where our voice comes in. Until June 10, we can let TVA–the nation’s largest public utility – know how we would like it to proceed.

“The world’s governments must immediately make a wholesale switch to carbon-free energy to have a shot at preventing catastrophic effects from climate change.” This, as the April 8 Science issue indicates, is the conclusion of the recently released Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Avoiding global warm- ing above 1.5oC [almost 2.7oF], the threshold for catastrophic effects such as flooding, extreme heat and crop failures, is at stake now and the world could be nearing this threshold within just five years, the scientists warn us.

To reduce the pollutant carbon emissions rapidly, much more solar energy is needed, they advise. Indeed, renewable energy must increase three- to sixfold by 2030, and politicians “must back incentives” for a fast transition. Besides, they note, “in- stalling new solar and wind farms and other renewables is already cheaper in many cases than building new fossil fuel power plants.”

As the draft of its Environmental Impact Statement for Cumberland Fossil Plant Retirement shows, however, at this point the TVA seems to be planning to remain with fossil-fuel based generation. The EIS suggests its preference for Alternative A – retrofitting the plant to run on natural gas and building new pipe- line infrastructure to supply the gas.

As it solicits our input, let’s help TVA reconsider this plan and chose Alter- native C, which would have it construct and operate solar and storage facilities, instead of natural gas.

The climate seems to demand a rapid switch to renewables, of which TVA has less than other power providers in the nation. Many businesses and citizens, moreover, seek greater access to renewable-power sources, as the long waiting list for solar power from our BrightRidge power board illustrates well, locally.

Comments from the public may be submitted by June 10, via e-mail ([email protected]