Groups and community members unite to propel TVA into a just, equitable, and fossil-fuel-free energy future by 2030
TENNESSEE — Dozens of organizations in the Tennessee Valley came together today to launch the Clean Up TVA Coalition, demanding immediate action from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to cut carbon emissions and transition to a fossil-fuel-free and just energy future by 2030. Coalition partners include the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE), Appalachian Voices, Sierra Club, Sunrise Knoxville, Sunrise Nashville, Center for Biological Diversity, Sowing Justice, Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment (SOCM), Knoxville Democratic Socialists of America, Energy Alabama, Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light, Memphis NAACP, and One Knox Legacy Coalition.
The coalition was formed in response to TVA’s desire to replace its Kingston and Cumberland coal plants with new methane gas plants and 149 miles of new gas pipeline. The utility has the second-highest planned gas buildout by 2030 among all major utilities. The coalition is urging TVA to invest instead in clean energy, such as solar, storage, and energy efficiency, to replace the utility’s fossil fuel fleet, especially the retiring Kingston and Cumberland coal plants.
“TVA is too reliant on fossil fuel energy and plans to continue to generate millions of tons of carbon,” said Pearl Walker, co-chair of the Memphis NAACP Environmental Justice Committee. “Households in the TVA footprint – especially Black, Brown, and low-wealth communities – will continue to be disproportionately burdened by high utility bills and dirty energy. Memphis already has one of the highest energy burdens in the country and now TVA is plowing toxic coal ash through our neighborhoods. TVA needs to focus on community resilience and redressing harms from its over-reliance on fossil fuels by transitioning to clean energy.”
“Communities near the Kingston and Cumberland Fossil plants deserve an economic transition that brings high-paying, sustainable jobs and development to those areas,” said Bri Knisley, Tennessee Campaign Manager at Appalachian Voices. “It’s wrong for TVA to push temporary solutions like gas plants onto communities that really need long-term investments.”
“People are fed up with TVA bowing to the fossil fuel industry and slow-walking renewable energy, so we’re pulling together to hold TVA’s feet to the fire,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, an energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “TVA officials have been ignoring the climate emergency and raking in huge profits, even as its customers face skyrocketing utility bills and one climate catastrophe after another. Tennessee Valley communities want leaders who are committed to 100% clean, renewable, and affordable energy and who will move swiftly to make that happen.”
President Biden has called for a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. TVA – a federal agency – will only achieve 80% carbon emission reductions by that date. Further, President & CEO, Jeff Lyash, has stated the utility’s aspirations to retire its coal fleet by 2035 while relying on methane gas. The International Institute for Sustainable Development warns that to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius the U.S. must stop all oil and gas extraction by 2034.
“As the country’s largest public power provider, TVA must lead – not stand in the way of – the just transition to fossil-fuel-free energy,” said Maggie Shober, Research Director at SACE. “We can’t afford to rely on coal and gas that pollute our communities, burden customers with high and volatile prices, and send us further towards climate catastrophe. We are coming together to demand TVA turn things around by retiring coal and replacing it with clean and cheap energy efficiency and renewables.”
TVA lags behind other utilities in solar and clean energy investment, which produce as much as 15% of delivered energy with solar power. TVA is predicted to quadruple its solar capacity by 2024, but even then, it will trail behind other utilities in the Southeast at half the regional average. Solar with storage is already more cost-effective than methane gas. Renewable options offer many benefits, including improving community resilience, electricity affordability, and minimizing negative ecosystem impacts.
“TVA needs to step up its energy efficiency and renewable energy offerings, so our power provider isn’t a tag along but a leader in the 21st century,” said Amy Kelly, Sierra Club’s Tennessee Beyond Coal Campaign Representative. “Local power companies are even exploring options to leave the utility altogether in search of cheaper, cleaner energy. This is not the legacy TVA wants to leave behind. It must reverse course and champion a new age for public power, centered on transparency, democracy, equity, and clean energy.”
The Clean Up TVA coalition is committed to transforming TVA into a green utility by shutting down coal plants, preventing new fossil gas development, and accelerating a just transition to fossil-fuel-free, distributed renewable, affordable, and democratic energy for all communities and workers in the Tennessee Valley.