The Tennessee Valley Authority, which once got nearly two-thirds of its power by burning coal, is preparing plans to phase out the last of its aging fleet of coal power plants within the next decade and a half and turn to more natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy sources like solar and wind power to generate more carbon-free electricity.
During a conference with top energy and union leaders and the chair of the Senate committee that oversees energy development, TVA President Jeff Lyash said he expects by 2035 that TVA will be able to cut its carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels by 80% below the peak levels reached in 2005. Already, TVA cut its carbon output by 63% in the past decade and a half, nearly twice the industry average for all U.S. utilities, and Lyash said the federal utility is looking for ways to cost-effectively make further reductions in its greenhouse emissions that scientists say contribute to global warming.
“TVA has been a leader and we are ready to continue to lead in this area,” Lyash said Wednesday during a conference by the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based think tank that focuses on American- European relations and development. “We’ve retired about 60% of our coal generation already and our coal units will continue to retire over the next 15 years because they have reached the end of the life for these facilities.”
TVA has already shut down 34 of the 59 coal-fired units it once operated, including closing its Widows Creek, Colbert, John Sevier, Allen, Paradise and Johnsonville coal plants in the past decade. TVA is preparing to shutter its Bull Run Fossil plant by 2023 and, subject to environmental studies and board approval, is planning to ultimately shut down its Cumberland, Gallatin, Kingston and Shawnee coal plants by 2035.