TVA's Clean Energy Future

Center for Biological Diversity
Project completed March 2023

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the largest provider of public power in the United States, is uniquely positioned to lead the way in the clean energy transition for Tennessee Valley. The U.S. Congress created TVA, originally conceived as a flood-control solution, as a federally owned electric utility in the 1930s to electrify the Tennessee Valley and bring economic benefits to the region. Today, TVA has the chance to continue this legacy through the 21st century with a shift to clean energy.

This clean energy transition will involve a major shift away from TVA’s conventional emphasis on aging fossil technology towards new technology, including storage, solar, wind, and demand-side resources. Changes in the electric sector will accompany a shift away from burning dirty and inefficient fossil fuels in homes, businesses, and vehicles. This future electric sector leverages efficient electric-powered technology to meet expanded heating and mobility needs for the same customers that TVA is already serving. By taking advantage of new federal legislation, particularly the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, TVA is poised to lead a transition that can produce benefits for local consumers such as improved air and water quality, as well as job creation.

Synapse was hired by GridLab, in partnership with Center for Biological Diversity, to better understand what it would take to achieve this clean energy transition. Using state-of-the-art electric sector and economic computer models, we examined TVA’s electric system at a detailed level from the early 2020s through 2050. By conducting scenario analysis of several different visions of the future, we compared a scenario that accelerates a clean energy future using storage to balance solar and wind without fossil fuels to a scenario that adheres to TVA’s status quo approach. We found that a clean energy future that reduces greenhouse gas emissions not only meets energy and capacity needs and provides electricity reliably, but also generates a wealth of economic development, public health, and energy justice benefits to Tennessee Valley consumers (on the order of hundreds of billions of dollars).

Our 100% Clean Energy scenario shows that by completely switching away from fossil fuels in the electric sector in 2035, and by pursuing ambitious levels of electrification in the transportation, buildings, and industrial sectors, consumers in TVA’s service territory can save $255 billion compared to a status quo “TVA Baseline” scenario. By pursuing a clean energy future, TVA can realize numerous benefits related to energy burden, job impacts, and public health while providing clean, reliable electricity to residents of the Tennessee Valley.