- The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on Friday published its 2019 Final Integrated Resource Plan, calling for up to 14 GW of new solar energy, 5,300 MW of energy storage and 2.2 GW of energy efficiency savings by 2038.
- The federally-owned utility also plans to mothball its coal plants, but its IRP has drawn criticism for its continued reliance on natural gas — up to 18.4 GW of new capacity if a high level of load growth materializes.
- The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) said it was "underwhelmed" by TVA's proposal, arguing the utility needs to invest more in energy efficiency, which would lower customer bills and reduce the need for new plants.
TVA's 20-year plan is an improvement over past strategies, clean energy advocates acknowledge, but say the utility must do more than swap one fossil fuel for another.
TVA said it will continue its plans to retire the Paradise coal plant in 2020 and Bull Run facility in 2023, and will evaluate retirements of up to 2,200 MW of additional coal capacity "if cost-effective."
The utility will also consider whether retiring up to 2,000 MW of existing gas-fired combustion turbines would be cost-effective, but said it sees a need for up to 5,200 MW of combustion turbines by 2028 and up to 8,600 MW by 2038. It will consider adding up to 5,700 MW of gas-fired combined cycle generation by 2028, and up to 9,800 MW by 2038.
For solar, TVA plans to add between 1,500 MW and 8,000 MW by the end of 2028, and up to 14,000 MW by 2038 depending on load growth.
SACE pointed to the broad ranges in possible resource additions, questioning the utility's commitments and the plan's usefulness.
"Instead of recommending one or a combination of the portfolios evaluated in the IRP process, TVA has lumped all the results together to provide a huge range for each resource, making the recommendation essentially useless," SACE said.
TVA's plan notes the ranges shown provide a "general guideline for resource selections."
SACE said the utility did not sufficiently focus on reducing demand, and was critical of the recommendation to achieve efficiency savings of up to 1,800 MW by 2028 and 2,200 MW by 2038.
"That statement leaves out the fact that the low end is zero. By including the entire range of portfolios in the 'recommendation,' TVA is stating that there is a possibility that it does not invest a single dollar in energy efficiency between now and 2028," SACE said.
"The final IRP continues to show an underwhelming investment in energy efficiency and renewables," the group said in a statement.
The Sierra Club praised TVA's move away from coal while also highlighting concerns about swapping one fossil fuel for another.
TVA's proposed move away from coal, toward solar, is merely a confirmation of "what we've known all along," according to Al Armendariz, deputy regional director for the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign.
"Even as TVA is making positive strides in this new plan, its leaders must start planning for an energy future that doesn't just trade coal for gas — which not only exposes customers to a volatile market, but also worsens the climate crisis," Armendariz said.