Pros and Cons of going solar

Pros & Cons of Solar Energy: What’s Best for You?

Solar energy has rapidly grown to be a popular energy source for the average consumer whether for home or business use. It accounts for more than 1/8th of energy produced across the United States. When considering switching to solar energy, what factors should you look at?

 

Pros

  • Lowers electric bill
  • Improves the value of your home
  • Reduces your carbon footprint
  • Solar is cheaper than ever
  • Provides energy independence

Cons

  • Initial investment can be high
  • May not work for all roof types
  • Manufacturing panels has pollution risk
  • The transition can require navigating red tape
  • Weather and climate dependent

 

So, what are the pros of solar energy?

 

1. Switching to solar energy will lower your electric bill

When installing solar panels, you are in control of the energy generated within your home, making you less reliant on utility providers. Therefore, your monthly bill could be reduced, if not eliminated entirely. Depending on your state, size of your home, and how much electricity you typically use, you could save anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 over a 20-year-period by switching to solar. The installation of your solar energy system is an investment. Use this estimate tool by energysage.com to calculate a customized estimate of how much you could save on your electricity bill.

2. A solar energy system improves the value of your home

Recent studies have shown that having a solar energy system installed increases the value of your property. Even if you plan to move before the life of your solar system is over, the increased value to your property will still provide a return on your initial investment. A study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, found that on average, across 8 different states, a solar system added $15,000 in value to the home. This is especially important if you’re ever planning on moving.

3. Solar energy is a clean energy source, reducing your carbon footprint

Solar radiation is captured in solar panels from the sun. The energy produced from these solar systems is free of pollutants and emits no greenhouse gasses. The Environmental Protection Agency states that greenhouse gases emitted from non-renewable energy like gas, coal, and oil energy are trapped on Earth and thus warm the planet. The average American home that uses typical non-renewable energy pushes out an estimated 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually. With solar panels, that footprint is reduced by over 3,000 pounds, making it a much cleaner option.

4. Solar is cheaper than ever

The price of solar energy systems has continued to decrease, leading to a large increase in the use of solar technology. According to figures from the International Renewable Energy Agency, the cost of solar energy has dropped by 82% since 2010. This is due to many factors, including improved technology, and the cost will continue to decline as technology improves and more licensed installers become available. In 2010, solar cost roughly $0.378 per kilowatt and as of 2020, is now $0.068 per kilowatt—equating to an 82% difference. 13.1% of that drop happened between 2018 and 2019 alone. Not only has the price of the actual system dropped, but there are financial incentives set in place to help families and businesses afford solar energy. For example, purchasing a solar power system in the U.S. means you may be eligible for a 30% federal income tax credit.

5. Solar provides energy independence

Solar power is always available to us, unlike non-renewable energy that must be created from resources that are not unlimited. Solar is the most abundant source of energy that we have available to us on Earth, meaning that we’ll never run out of it. With the transition to the use of solar panels, the average consumer can trust that they’ll never run out of the sunlight that powers their home. As solar technology has improved, even climates with little sun can still generate energy.

 

So, what are the cons of solar energy?

 

1. Initial investment can be high

Though you may save money over time on your electric bill, the initial investment when installing a solar power system can be significant. The more energy you need to fuel your home or business, the more panels you’ll have to buy upfront. Installing panels can be tens of thousands of dollars in the beginning, but fortunately that can be reduced with federal incentives for making the transition to clean energy. Depending on your state, costs of a residential solar system after federal tax credits can range from an estimate of $11,000 to $20,000. 

Though not everyone has the cash to pay for a solar energy system outright, there are a number of financing options to help you get started. The Investment Tax credit (ITC) has helped fund many solar panel investments since 2006—as of 2020, you can have 26% of your solar panel cost deducted through it. There are also federal grant and loan programs that offer incentives for installing solar panel systems—this enables homeowners to either receive a grant or take a loan to assist in their solar investment and get their system set up as soon as possible. Despite the initial investment cost being high, the savings on your monthly bill will allow you to recoup that investment in just a few years. The sooner you make the transition to solar energy, the sooner you can start saving money.

2. Solar panels may not work for your roof type

Solar panels are installed on the rooftop of homes and businesses through a mounting system. It can be difficult to install panels on some roofing materials used on older homes, making it difficult to include everyone in the transition to so

lar power. While installing solar on a home that you don’t own may make going solar for renters more difficult, it’s not impossible. You may be able to install solar panels on your roof with your landlord’s permission or use a portable solar panel system. 

It can also be difficult to install on apartment buildings or businesses that have rooftop decks of skylights, making the installation process and transition to solar power much more difficult and costly. However, rooftop installation is not the only option when it comes to using a solar power system, as there are other options such as ground-mounted panels and community solar panel gardens.

If you live in an apartment, you can still go solar with portable solar panel systems —it can go on your balcony, banisters, or even your window. A portable system generates between 1.3 kWh and 1.5 kWh of electricity per day—enough to charge your devices and run small appliances—giving you the ability to use less non-renewable energy. These portable systems also qualify for the same federal tax credit that regular PV systems qualify for, continuing to save you money. While some roof types may make solar more difficult, as you can see it’s not impossible in the U.S.–even with the use of the smaller portable solar panel systems, both you and the environment benefit when the use of non-renewable energy declines.

And if you don’t have access to a community solar program, make sure your utility company hears that you want one!

3. Manufacturing solar panels has pollution risks

A solar energy system does not cause pollution during its working life, but it can during the initial manufacturing process. There are chemicals used during the making of the panels and the transportation of them—but it’s still one of the least-polluting energy sources available to us. In addition to the toxic chemicals used when making them, the manufacturing processes can produce gas emissions, but there is still considerably less pollution than what is produced by non-renewable energy sources. Manufacturers are continuing to improve their efforts in sustainability—including making sure that toxic chemicals are disposed of properly and that options for recycling solar panels are available. While there are pollution risks, making the transition to clean energy with minimal pollution outweighs the use of dirty energy and maximum pollution risk.

4. The transition require navigating red tape

Though solar is one of the fastest growing markets in the U.S., the market is still very small. It can be  stressful and confusing to get started when you want to make the transition, and this can be due to the lack of qualified sales representatives that are honest or available. Don’t fall for aggressive companies trying to sell their products to the average consumer, which can make the transition to clean energy frustrating instead of enjoyable. With the growing of the industry, it’s becoming easier to find installers in your area that won’t leave you stressed about the transition. Mission: Net Zero is a project of Energy Alabama to install more than 310 megawatts of solar energy in North Alabama. Whether you are looking to install solar on your home or business, we have resources to connect you with qualified (and reputable!) solar installers throughout Alabama.

5. Solar is weather and climate dependent

Solar panels are dependent on the sun. In lesser-than-sunny areas, solar energy may not be as efficient despite technology improvements but luckily that isn’t a problem in Alabama. Solar energy also cannot be collected at night when the sun isn’t out, which is why external batteries are used to store energy during the day to power your home at night. These batteries are not essential for every solar system owner, but companies are steadily working towards increased availability for those who would benefit.

The technology of the batteries has greatly improved in recent years. Battery prices have dropped almost 90% in the past 10 years, with another expected 50% drop by 2023. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average U.S. household consumes an estimate of 30 kilowatt-hours (kW) of energy per day while a standard battery has a capacity of 10 kWh.

 

Key takeaway

These pros and cons are what determine whether you choose to make the transition to clean solar energy—but it’s important to remember there’s a tradeoff. The technology of solar energy is continually improving and  the pros still outweigh the cons. 

While the initial investment can be expensive, you still save thousands compared to traditional non-renewable energy sources. Solar is also cheaper than ever and continues to decline in price. Despite installation difficulties and whether or not your roof type works, there are always alternative options such as portable panel systems or community solar programs. While solar may also be entirely dependent on the weather, batteries can make sure your home stays powered even when the sun is down. We will eventually run out of the non-renewable energy sources we use now, but we will never run out of sunlight. While there is some pollution in the creation of solar panels, there is much less pollution from solar than from the use of nuclear, coal, and gas, making solar energy one of the most advantageous option for our future.

The U.S. is successfully transitioning to clean energy—it’s our cheapest and cleanest option for our futures.The transition to solar energy in your home could encourage your neighbors, leading to more and more people using clean energy. Small steps lead to a big change, a change that could be made in your home and life. While it may not be the best and most available option for everyone right now, there is plenty of hope that one day it will as the solar energy market continues to improve.

Learn more about how to go solar in North Alabama.

 

Sources:

https://goingsolar.com/why-is-it-so-hard-to-get-people-to-switch-to-solar-energy/

https://news.energysage.com/solar-panels-toxic-environment/

https://www.zmescience.com/ecology/renewable-energy-ecology/solar-panels-pros-and-cons-056654/

https://suntuitysolar.com/suntuityblog/whygoingsolarcanhelpreduceemissions.html

https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2015/01/13/berkeley-lab-illuminates-price-premiums-u-s-solar-home-sales/

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/solar-energy/solar-energy-pros-and-cons.html

https://us.sunpower.com/pros-and-cons-solar-energy

https://www.energysage.com/solar/financing/

https://news.energysage.com/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-solar-energy/

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/nonrenewable-resources/

https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/investing-in-solar-energy-what-return-can-you-get-on-your-solar-investment

https://www.solarreviews.com/blog/solar-panels-for-rental-homes-and-apartments#:~:text=If%20you%20rent%20a%20house,of%20a%20large%20solar%20farm.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sherikoones/2020/01/26/creating-energy-independence-with-solar-panels–storage-battery-systems-in-the-home/?sh=6095c9a75ead

https://www.energysage.com/solar/solar-energy-storage/what-are-the-best-batteries-for-solar-panels/

https://alcse.org/energy-alabama/our-work/technical-assistance/mission-net-zero/

Solar 101: Frequently asked questions about solar

Solar 101: Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Solar Energy

Solar energy is the future of energy, allowing you as an energy consumer to not only be energy efficient but also save money. Solar energy is one of the main clean and sustainable energy sources that benefits both the consumer and world we inhabit.

 

So, what should you know?

 

What is solar energy?

Solar is the most abundant source of energy we have available to us on Earth. The energy from the sun is more than 10,000 times what the world needs in terms of energy, at any given time of day. It is a form of “renewable energy” or “clean energy” which is energy that comes from natural sources that are always available. In recent years, scientists have studied solar energy as a power source for homes and businesses–it now accounts for more than one-eighth of the energy sources used across the United States. 

This 1/8th includes the energy that has been used to grow our crops, dry foods, and keep us warm, but now it can be used to warm your water and power your homes and businesses.

How does solar energy work?

The US government’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy states that “the amount of sunlight that strikes the earth’s surface in an hour and a half is enough to handle the entire world’s energy consumption for a full year.” Solar energy is derived from the sun. Solar energy comes from the light emitted by the sun—electromagnetic radiation—that reaches the Earth’s surface. Through the installation and use of solar panels, sunlight and solar radiation is converted into power that our technology can use. The heat radiation from the sun triggers a reaction that produces electricity for use.

Does solar radiation have any negative affects to our Earth?

There are no negative effects from the sun’s radiation with the use of renewable energy. On average, 70% of the radiation emitted by the sun is absorbed into the Earth while the other 30% is reflected back into space. However, greenhouse gasses emitted from burning fossil fuels (a non-renewable energy source) trap the sun’s radiation, causing the temperature of the Earth to rise. Earth’s average global temperature that covers the entire surface depends on how much energy we receive from the Sun and how much returns into space, and as a result of non-renewable energy, Earth has experienced an approximate 1℃ global change in temperature.

How is solar power produced?

Solar radiation is captured through photovoltaic (PV) cells in solar panels where it is then converted into electric energy. Solar panels used to capture sunlight and radiation consist of 60 or more solar cells, and comes in two main types—monocrystalline or polycrystalline—with a marginal difference in wattage. Both cell types serve the same purpose for the solar system, but monocrystalline solar panel cells are made from a single crystal of silicon while polycrystalline solar panel cells are made from many melted silicon fragments. Monocrystalline panels -considered the premium of the two- have higher conversion efficiencies and are sleeker looking. Polycrystalline cells are the cheaper option, but they have slightly lower efficiencies and look less aesthetically pleasing to some.

In order for the conversion of sun radiation to electric energy through the solar panels to successfully occur there is a complex process that consists of the following elements—solar panels, PV module, wiring, inverters, etc. The PV module is the core of the solar cells, when light from the sun hits the conversion module, each cell produces direct current (DC) voltage. DC and alternating current (AC) wiring are responsible for switching the power on/off and from the inverter. The inverter is responsible for taking the DC from the solar and/or batteries and turning it into AC for use in a building or on the grid. Batteries are sometimes installed to store the electric energy chemically to be used when the sun is not hitting the panels, like during the night-time. Finally, solar controllers are used to regulate the energy current into the batteries. Solar energy is made possible through the work of each of these components.

How much does solar power cost?

The prices of solar panels are ever dropping. What you should expect depends on the system size and federal solar tax credit, with a 10-kilowatt ranging from $17,650 to $23,828 and the average price per watt ranging from $2.40 to $3.22. The cost depends on how much energy you want to generate, depending on whether you’re planning on fueling solar electricity through your home or business. The below chart depicts the average cost for solar panels depending on the size of the system:

System sizeAverage solar panel system cost before tax creditsAverage solar panel system cost after tax credits
2 kW$5,620$4,159
3 kW$8,430$6,238
4 kW$11,240$8,318
5 kW$14,050$10,397
6 kW$16,860$12,476
7 kW$19,670$14,556
8 kW$22,480$16,635
9 kW$25,290$18,715
10 kW$28,100$20,794
12 kW$33,720$24,953
15 kW$42,150$41,588
20 kW$56,200$41,588
25 kW$70,250$51,985

The solar tax credit reduces your cost by 26% simply for installing a solar energy system, saving you thousands of dollars for going solar. Costs can depend on your state, so it’s best to compare prices with various providers in your area to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

What can solar energy be used for?

The sun makes plants grow, causes the wind to blow, and affects the temperature across the globe. It can also power your household appliances, your cell phone, and your air conditioning. Solar can be used to:

  1. Provide electricity for homes and businesses – a solar system installed on rooftops can power the entire establishment.
  2. Heat your water – solar panels absorb heat and then transfer it into a water tank. This can be your home water or even your swimming pool.
  3. Heat your home or business – solar space heating systems paired with forced hot air systems can heat homes.
  4. Provide light within your home or business (one of the most common uses) solar lighting is present in homes, streetlights, and road signs.
  5. Charge portable batteries – portable solar PV chargers can be used for charging your portable electronics such as your cell phone.
  6. Power your method of transportation – solar power has been used to power buses, trains, and airplanes. Though not widely available, solar-powered cars are in the works. In 2015, we worked with UAH to solar power some of their golf carts.

With the potential to power your everyday necessities, solar energy has the potential to power your future.

Why isn’t solar power more widely used?

Solar energy is not a new concept, but even just a few years ago, it could be expensive to implement and not readily available to many people. However, now, many families across the U.S. and the rest of the world have converted to using solar energy as their primary source of energy. Solar energy is becoming more widely used as time progresses and prices continue to drop.

The advantages that come with using solar energy include:

  • We can’t run out of solar energy, making it a renewable source that we will always have available.
  • What you pay for energy will drop, how much depends on the size of your solar system.
  • You can generate electricity and heat, making its uses diverse.
  • Maintenance is cheap and easy. It’s as simple as cleaning the panels a few times a year.
  • Improvements are consistently being made to current solar energy systems in the industry.
  • Solar panels typically last for about 25 to 30 years, or even more.
  • Solar energy is more optimal for the environment.
  • While solar energy may cost more starting out, there are tax credits that lower the prices.

The disadvantages that come with using solar energy include:

  • The upfront or initial cost can be high—paying for the panels, inverter, batteries, wiring, and installation.
  • Solar energy is dependent on the weather, and you may need batteries to smooth out your production or save it for later.
  • Adding battery storage makes a system more expensive.
  • You may need more solar panels than you have available space.
  • There is some pollution that comes with the initial manufacturing process of the solar panels.

Who can benefit from solar energy?

Everyone can benefit from the use of solar energy. You don’t have to live on a sunny beach to benefit from the energy that the sun provides for us, nor will you be without if you live in a cloudy region. As long as solar energy systems are properly manufactured and placed, the risks fall far below that of the non-renewable energy the world uses now.

What is the reality of solar energy?

Solar energy has proved to be abundant and is becoming more popular as years progress. Solar pollutes far less, is energy efficient, and saves money. There are many misconceptions about using a solar energy system that have caused people to avoid it, but with our help and determination to teach you about renewable energy, we can move past those misconceptions and implement a clean energy future.

 

Sources:

RELEASE: Clean Energy Advocates Call On TVA to Halt Its Plans for New Gas, Align with Federal Goals

March 16, 2021
Contact:
Maggie Shober, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, maggie@cleanenergy.org865-235-1448
Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama, dtait@alcse.org256-812-1431
Jonathan Levenshus, Sierra Club, jonathan.levenshus@sierraclub.org202-590-0893

Knoxville, Tenn. — Clean energy groups, in public comments submitted on March 13, are calling on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to halt its plans for a massive build-out of gas-fired power plants that are inconsistent with President Biden’s call for net zero emissions in the power sector by 2035. The Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Sierra Club, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Energy Alabama argue that new gas is costly, adds significant risk to customers and that TVA failed to analyze any alternatives such as energy efficiency or renewable energy should it need new capacity.

In February, TVA released an Environmental Assessment containing plans to build 1.5 gigawatts of new peaking gas-fired power plants, three new combustion turbines in Alabama totaling 750 megawatts, and three in Kentucky totaling 750 megawatts. President Biden signed a series of executive orders in late January, days before TVA announced its gas additions, to help achieve a “carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035” and the President called on the federal government to leverage its footprint and buying power to “lead by example.”

“The environmental, public health and economic impacts of gas aren’t going away, and there’s little chance of our nation affordably meeting President Biden’s achievable carbon reduction goals if we increase our reliance on fossil fuels,” said Jonathan Levenshus from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “TVA should be winding down its use of gas to power our homes and businesses, not ramping it up.”

“The decision by TVA to replace one fossil fuel with another locks the utility into gas for decades,” said Keith Johnston, Director of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Birmingham office. “TVA did not properly consider other energy resources, such as energy efficiency, renewables and demand response programs, that could alleviate this need for more fossil fuels.”

TVA’s high wholesale power cost, driven largely by expensive coal plants, debt, and historic underinvestment in energy efficiency, has some local utilities considering a departure from TVA and potentially procuring power elsewhere. TVA’s lack of energy efficiency drives bills up for all customers.

“The TVA territory is home to some of the highest energy burdens – measured by the proportion of income spent on energy – in the country,” said Daniel Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Energy Alabama. “TVA’s failure to even consider energy efficiency, renewable resources, or demand response will exacerbate the problem rather than solve it.”

“At a time when TVA’s future customer base and business model are in question, we cannot afford to increase the risk for even more stranded assets,” said Maggie Shober, Director of Utility Reform for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “TVA must get serious about modernizing its infrastructure rather than doubling down on the infrastructure of the last century.”

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About Energy Alabama
Energy Alabama is a nonprofit organization accelerating Alabama’s transition to sustainable energy. We accomplish our mission by educating at all levels, informing smart energy policy, building the next-generation workforce, and providing technical assistance to deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in sustainable energy for all. energyalabama.org

About Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.8 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.

About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes equitable and responsible energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.

About Southern Environmental Law Center
For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

Electric lines in the ice and snow

Alabama’s Lessons From Texas

This article by our Chief Operating Officer, Daniel Tait, was originally published in Business Alabama.

What happened in Texas in February was a tragedy, with millions left without power amid freezing temperatures for days.  A recent opinion piece by Mr. George Clark of Manufacture Alabama discussed what a similar situation could mean for Alabama. While it’s true that better energy planning is needed, Mr. Clark missed the mark on the right solution for Alabama and left out key tools (cleaner and cheaper tools) to address Alabama’s energy needs.

As Mr. Clark noted, almost all energy sources had troubles in Texas, although not all suffered equally. Some government officials and other vested interests (mainly fossil fuel advocates) immediately jumped to conclusions, blaming the power outages on renewable energy sources, namely frozen wind turbines. It has since come to light that the main cause was actually frozen gas pipelines and instruments.  Gas and other fossil fuels like coal were especially hit hard with supply issues. Upwards of 40% of the Texas’s gas, coal, and nuclear fleet went offline at times. At its peak, about 30 gigawatts of mostly gas generation in Texas failed because of the cold temperatures. Wind power also had some outages, but not nearly on the same scale. In fact, ERCOT, Texas’ grid operator, reported that wind power was “the least significant factor” in the blackout. Furthermore, wind turbines can and do operate reliably in sub-zero temperatures if they are properly winterized, and wind turbines operate fine in much colder places, such as the northern Plains.

Texas relies heavily on gas for its energy supply, just like Alabama. Unfortunately, the recent disaster highlights the inherent risks associated with gas plants, gas supply, and an overreliance on gas. Many of the gas plants that went offline in Texas could not receive the gas they were promised, even if they had firm delivery gas contracts. And, as this goes to press, Alabama Power is currently proposing a massive expansion of their electric generation capacity with mostly gas. But gas, as we are seeing in Texas, is not the panacea many utilities claim it to be.

So, what can Alabama do to help protect us from a similar catastrophe? While we won’t know the full story until Texas authorities investigate further, Alabama can and should take immediate steps to prepare. While electricity outages are always a possibility, we can reduce the likelihood of occurrences and impacts by investing in more energy efficiency, having more robust demand response programs and reducing barriers to renewable energy in our state.  Alabama is woefully behind in deploying these lower cost resources that do not require the massive expenditures (and accompanying rate hikes) that a new gas plant requires.

As the least cost energy resource for customers, ramping up energy efficiency would lower bills for customers across the board. Energy efficiency is especially important to reduce peak stress on the grid in Southern states where much of our home heating comes from electricity–more efficient homes and businesses hold on to heating and cooling for longer periods and save energy and money year-round. But energy efficiency is also a public safety issue. If power goes out for a prolonged amount of time as it did in Texas, Alabama needs buildings that can keep people warm and safe. Unfortunately, Alabama Power ranks last in the nation in energy efficiency offerings among utilities. Utilities often oppose stringent energy efficiency standards and building codes in an attempt to sell more electricity and build more centralized power plants. While that may be good for utility profits, it’s not good for Alabamians or our businesses.

Furthermore, stronger and more robust demand response programs – which reduce or shift your energy usage – can help utilities manage load to keep the grid running when power plants go down and demand for electricity is still rising. Demand response programs can compensate residents for things like dialing back the temperature on their thermostat or shutting down a water heater during an emergency.

Finally, Alabama utilities and regulators have gone out of their way to block renewable energy sources in this state.  Look no further than the Alabama PSC’s recent decision, and Alabama Power’s increase in a “standby charge”, to keep taxing the sun for small scale solar producers in the state. Or the Alabama PSC’s recent decision to not allow 400 MW of solar plus battery storage. Smaller scale solar and energy storage projects can help us mitigate energy usage in record-breaking storms. These local sources of reliable and cost-effective energy are almost nowhere to be found in Alabama, even when compared to our Southeastern neighbors, and it’s critical to bring these sources online and scale them as quickly as possible. Neighboring states like Georgia are doing it, and they are creating jobs and stimulating the economy in the meantime. Utilities often oppose renewable energy resources, despite the myriad benefits for customers, because of the threat to their business model.

Preventing a disaster like Texas from happening in Alabama will require better planning and investing in lower cost resources such as energy efficiency, demand response, and renewable energy resources. Alabama should take heed of the tough lessons Texas learned: more gas plants are not a failsafe solution and banking on last century’s technology for a historic weather event can result in unprecedented failure.

Press Release: Tennessee Valley Authority Must Commit to 100% Clean Energy, Align With Biden Climate Goal

For Immediate Release, February 9, 2021

Contact:Gaby Sarri-Tobar, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 594-7271, gsarritobar@biologicaldiversity.org
Daniel Tait, Energy Alabama, (256) 812-1431, dtait@alcse.org
Brianna Knisley, Appalachian Voices, (937) 725-0645, brianna@appvoices.org

Tennessee Valley Authority Must Commit to 100% Clean Energy, Align With Biden Climate Goal

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.— The federally owned Tennessee Valley Authority must align its energy planning with President Biden’s recent executive order requiring that the federal electricity sector completely decarbonize by 2035, energy justice groups said today in a letter to the public utility’s board of directors.

“TVA must change course immediately to address the climate emergency and meet President Biden’s urgent call to action,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “TVA’s electricity plans show no urgency to cut emissions, phase out poisonous fossil fuels, or diminish the unbearable energy burden felt by its customers, many of whom are Black and low-wealth. TVA board members are defying the president and worsening the climate crisis by failing to act.”

In advance of the board’s Feb. 11 meeting, the Center, Energy Alabama, Appalachian Voices and 10 other organizations demanded that the TVA board immediately commit to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2030.

“The TVA board has lost sight of its New Deal era roots and TVA’s prioritization of expensive and unnecessary coal and gas are threatening the very existence of the agency right when we need its bold action the most,” said Daniel Tait, chief operating officer of Energy Alabama. “TVA once led the country on clean energy development and earned its place as the nation’s iconic federal utility. It’s well past time for TVA to again set the federal example and get back to work for everyone in the Valley.”

TVA generates just 4% of electricity from solar, wind and energy efficiency. The utility plans to emit more than 34 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2038, according to its own projections. TVA is set to retire less than a quarter of its current coal fleet by 2030, and just this month announced plans to expand fossil fuel operations at two dirty gas plants.

“TVA should be modeling a rapid transition to zero carbon energy that also centers its union workforce. Instead, TVA continues to make expensive, dirty decisions, and now several local power companies are seeking a cheaper power provider, which may jeopardize jobs for our local unions,” said Brianna Knisley, Appalachian Voices’ Tennessee campaign coordinator. “Instead of making decisions that harm our environment and drive up energy costs, TVA should follow Biden’s executive orders and invest in clean and efficient projects that will bring energy equity and green job growth to the Valley.”

TVA’s actions jeopardize the utility’s long-term outlook as local power companies face rate spikes and diminished access to cheaper, cleaner energy. The Center recently intervened in a complaint filed by local power companies dissatisfied that TVA is blocking them from purchasing cheaper power from other suppliers. The companies are asking FERC to let them defect.

Last week Biden removed former President Trump’s nominations to the TVA board, so Biden will have four opportunities this spring to appoint clean-energy champions.

TVA is a federally owned corporation and the nation’s largest public power provider. It generates electricity for more than 9 million customers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, southwestern Kentucky, and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Energy Alabama is a membership-based nonprofit organization accelerating Alabama’s transition to sustainable energy. We accomplish our mission by educating at all levels, informing smart energy policy, building the next generation workforce, and providing technical assistance to deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in sustainable energy for all.

Appalachian Voices works at the nexus of the ongoing shift from fossil fuels to clean, 21st-century energy sources — we fight mountaintop-removal coal mining, fracked-gas pipelines and other harms to the people and places of Appalachia, and we advance energy efficiency, solar and wind power, and other economic solutions that create community wealth and sustain Appalachia’s mountains, forests and waters.