TVA outlines plan for future, less coal and focus on other resources

A new Tennessee Valley Authority plan designed to guide decision-making recommends greater use of nuclear power, natural gas and renewable resources and less reliance on coal.

TVA's Kingston Fossil Plant in Roane County (Photo Courtesy: TVA)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Tennessee Valley Authority has designed a new plan to provide you with energy, over the next 20 years. Their goal is a low-cost and environmentally friendly option.

A team of TVA employees have been developing their Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for two years.

Friday, they filed their report with the EPA, and shared details online, which reveals a multi-faceted approach to save money, and decrease their impact on the environment. That means decreasing coal usage, and focusing on other sources of energy.

Gary Brinkworth, a TVA researcher for the IRP, said, "Our study indicates that we should go farther, in terms of developing the best balance between cost, and performance, and environmental impact."

TVA's team dedicated to the Integrated Resource Plan, outlined their work over the past two years, in an online conference. The plan details how the electricity provider will deal with future demand.

Brinkworth said, "We're really trying to find a way to close the gap between our firm supply, and the projected requirements our customers are going to place on our system, over the 20 year horizon period."

They plan to cut back on their usage of coal, and they say that is because of anticipated future regulations, and ultimately an increase in cost.

"My first thought is that it's a pretty drastic step to significantly cut back on a major source of energy," said Chuck Laine, President of the Tennessee Mining Association.

Laine said coal mining keeps nearly 5,000 people in East Tennessee employed, along with tens of thousands of others in the Appalachian region. And, while TVA does not buy coal from Tennessee mines, because of sulfur content, he worries this is a sign of the future of coal mining.

Laine said, "We could truly be energy independent with coal alone."

TVA's plan instead focuses on several other resources, including renewable energy such as hydro, wind, and solar energy.

Van Wardlaw led the development of the IRP, and said, "And we'll be watching those closely, both to see how the technologies advance as well as how the economies and cost of those options can advance in the future."

Brinkworth said, "Nuclear is going to continue to play a role. In fact, our studies show that can play an increasing role in our resource portfolio going forward."

TVA says they're giving themselves several options for energy sources in their 20-year plan, so they can vary their methods with changes in resources, regulations, and technology.

The plan presented Friday, will go before TVA's board on April 14th, and they will vote on whether or not to accept it.

The developers could not say if their plan will have any impact on rates for TVA customers, or jobs with TVA.

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