Press Release: Energy Department Pushed for Roadmap on TVA’s Transition to 100% Just, Renewable Energy

For Immediate Release, July 29, 2021


Gaby Sarri-Tobar, Center for Biological Diversity, (202) 594-7271,
Amy Kelly, Sierra Club, (423) 398-3506,
Zanagee Artis, Zero Hour, (860) 575-7535,
Dan Joranko, Tennessee Alliance for Progress,

Energy Department Pushed for Roadmap on TVA’s Transition to 100% Just, Renewable Energy

WASHINGTON— More than 80 energy justice, racial justice, faith and youth organizations urged the U.S. Department of Energy today to release a roadmap detailing how the Tennessee Valley Authority will transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.

TVA is the nation’s largest public power provider, but the federally owned utility currently has no plan to achieve emission-free power. That’s despite President Joe Biden’s goal of decarbonizing the U.S. electricity sector by 2035.

In today’s letter to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and Director of National Renewable Energy Laboratories Martin Keller, the groups called on the DOE to use TVA as a national laboratory to pioneer the country’s renewable and just energy transition.

“TVA can be the utility leader this country needs to tackle the climate emergency, but the Energy Department has to get involved,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, an energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “With its current fossil fuel-friendly board and CEO, we’ll continue to see little progress in getting TVA on track to achieving 100% renewable and just energy by 2030. If Secretary Granholm’s team pushes TVA to make big changes, that could help revolutionize the entire U.S. energy system.”

TVA recently announced it would retire two of its four remaining coal plants, but the utility is considering replacing them with gas plants, furthering its dependence on fossil fuels. One of the coal plants is the Kingston Fossil Plant, which was the source of the largest industrial spill in U.S. history and resulted in a public health and environmental crisis.

TVA also announced this year a one-billion-dollar project for six new combustion turbine gas units at its Paradise and Colbert facilities. The utility plans to emit more than 34 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2038, according to its own projections. Currently just 3% of TVA’s energy supply comes from solar and wind.

“A 100% clean electric grid is doable and necessary,” said Amy Kelly, campaign representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in the Tennessee Valley. “We deserve an energy future that benefits everyone, especially communities that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, air and water pollution and fossil fuel consumption. DOE can harness the ingenuity of its national laboratories to pivot TVA’s heavy fossil fuel portfolio to one that is completely renewable and aligned with the administration’s decarbonization goal.”

In May TVA CEO and President Jeff J. Lyash said he wants to decarbonize TVA by 2050, but he did not explain how that would happen. Groups say the timeline is too short, given the severity of the climate emergency and growing energy insecurity. Even with this new goal, the utility continues to rely on false solutions like fracked gas that will worsen climate injustice in the Tennessee Valley.

“Transitioning America’s energy infrastructure to 100% renewable and just energy is key to mitigating the impacts of the climate emergency and advancing energy justice,” said Zanagee Artis, policy director of Zero Hour. “Our future depends on a rapid transition away from fossil fuel reliance, and TVA has a responsibility to its customers and the American people to rapidly transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.”

“DOE can nudge TVA back to its environmental stewardship and pioneering spirit,” said Daniel Joranko, climate project director at Tennessee Alliance for Progress. “We are running out of time, and communities in the Tennessee Valley deserve a utility who will stand for a just transition, remediate the harms of its fossil fuel legacy and invest in solutions that will make our communities more resilient.”

TVA generates electricity for more than 10 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.

Sierra Club’s mission is to explore, enjoy and protect the planet. To practice and promote the responsible use of the earth’s ecosystems and resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural and human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out those objectives.

Zero Hour is a global youth-led climate justice organization based in the US creating entry points, training, and resources for young activists and organizers wanting to take bold action to achieve climate justice. Together, we are a movement of unstoppable youth organizing to protect our right to natural resources and a clean, safe, and healthy environment that will ensure a livable future where we not just survive, but flourish.

Tennessee Alliance for Progress is a 20 year old statewide organization that advocates for social and energy justice. TAP convenes both Climate Nashville, and Climate Chattanooga and works in coalition across Tennessee working for a clean energy transition.

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