TVA Votes to Close Coal Plant Despite Objections From Trump, Republicans

The Tennessee Valley Authority has voted to close a coal-fired
power plant that President Donald Trump took to Twitter to defend
this week, yet another statistic in coal’s
losing economic battle
against natural gas and renewable energy
alternatives, even in the heart of coal country. 

At a Thursday meeting in Nashville, Tenn., board members of the
New Deal-era federal power agency
voted 5-to-2
to approve a staff plan to close the last
remaining unit of the Paradise Fossil Plant by the end of next
year. The vote came despite objections from the community, as well
as the Republican-led state legislature, governor and congressional
delegation — including Senate Majority Leader Mitch
McConnell — over the job losses and economic impacts of retiring
the plant. 

Trump, who has the political support of Robert Murray, CEO of
Murray Energy, a major coal supplier to the Paradise plant, joined
the chorus with a Monday
tweet
 stating that coal “is an important part of our
electricity generation mix” and TVA “should give serious
consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power
plants.” 

The Trump administration has claimed that many of the uneconomic
coal plants planned to close over the coming years are critical to
maintaining a resilient and reliable grid — a stance that has
been refuted by evidence and testimony from grid operators, energy
industry analysts, and most of the current members of the Federal
Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). 

At Thursday’s meeting, TVA staff laid out evidence that the
Paradise plant, as well as another coal plant slated for retirement
by 2022, the Bull Run Fossil Plant, are costing ratepayers far more
than they’re worth. Retiring both plants is expected to save the
10 million or so customers served by utilities that get their power
from TVA about $320 million over 10 years, according to staff
estimates. 

Thursday’s five votes for closure included two of the four
members appointed by the Trump administration. One of the no-votes,
Kenny Allen, a retired coal executive who lives in Kentucky, said
he was “still concerned about the overall economic impact” on
the community, as well as “the long-term impact on TVA” in
terms of grid resilience. 

But TVA President Bill Johnson said at Thursday’s meeting that
the agency has “more than enough capacity to meet the load without
Paradise and Bulll Run” to serve its utilities across Alabama,
Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, North Carolina and
Virginia. TVA’s share of coal-fired power has declined from 58
percent a decade ago to 26 percent as of last year, and is expected
to shrink further to 22 percent by 2027.

Most of the slack has been taken up by nuclear power, which
supplies 40 percent of its power, up from 20 percent a decade ago,
new natural gas plants, which now provide about 20 percent of
TVA’s power, and its legacy hydropower projects, which provide
about 10 percent. 

TVA now gets only about 3 percent of its power from wind and
solar, but that’s set to grow under some large-scale contracts
announced in the past year. TVA is working with
Facebook to power a data center in Alabama with renewables, and has
also worked with Google for data centers in Alabama and
Tennessee that will run on renewable power. 

TVA’s board also voted Thursday to continue two programs, one
aimed at integrating customers with behind-the-meter energy
resources, and another to support a “DER flexibility research
project” available to the utilities that buy its power. Under
that pilot project, the Tennessee Valley Public Power Association,
which represents the municipal utilities and electric cooperatives
served by TVA, will contract for about 300 megawatts of solar
power, combined heat and power, and other applicable distributed
energy technologies.

TVA is also planning to incorporate renewable and distributed
energy in its upcoming integrated resource plan (IRP), set to be
released later this month, which will set the agency’s resource
procurement plans over the next four years. TVA has said that
it will
be exploring
 “various DER scenarios and aim to improve its
understanding of the impact and benefit of system flexibility as a
way of adapting to the growth of renewable and distributed
resources.” 

At the same time, TVA is
facing a lawsuit
 from environmental groups, saying its
decision last year to cut its wholesale power rate by a half-cent
per kilowatt-hour and impose a fixed half-cent “grid access
fee” per kilowatt-hour instead, is designed to make solar power
uneconomical. 

TVA is also being eyed as the vehicle for a massive investment
in clean energy under the nascent Green
New Deal
 being developed by Democrats in Congress. The
People’s Policy Project, a left-leaning think tank, has released
a report
 calling for Congress to change TVA’s rules to
require it to decarbonize its existing generation fleet, and
authorize it to build and operate renewable energy plants outside
its service territory. 

Source: FS – Transport 2
TVA Votes to Close Coal Plant Despite Objections From Trump, Republicans



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