An eclectic group of Tennessee organizations have banded together to move a New Deal era organization into the 21st century of distributive solar power. Tennesseans For Solar Choice (TSC) brings together political conservatives, civil rights advocates, environmentalists, plus solar and non-solar business groups to push the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to broaden and liberalize their meager solar portfolio, programs and compensation.
TVA is heavily invested in conventional generation, and owns nearly 20,000 MW of power plant capacity with the largest portion being large hydro, followed by nuclear power. Less than a MW of the TVA’s own portfolio is solar, scattered among a handful of facilities. End user owned solar in the TVA region is somewhat better with 88.75 MW of PV operating in the region of Tennessee and surrounding states, plus another 66 MW of projects received, approved or under construction as of September 30, 2016, according to the TVA 2016 Highlight Report. TSC describes this as inadequate, and solar generation in Tennessee reflects this lack with less than one fifth of one percent (0.19%) of the state’s electricity coming from PV in 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The TSC’s indictment of the TVA’s solar policy is as varied as the constituencies under its aegis. The TVA is accused of limiting customer choice and denying effective energy freedom, disdaining distributive clean energy technologies and practices while continuing traditional centralized command and control operations, not being inclusive in the planning and deployment process and providing paltry incentives and bureaucratic impediments to solar development.
The organizations backing this combination of philosophy and practicality are Conservatives For Energy Freedom, Tennessee Small Business Alliance, National Association For Advancement Of Colored People (NAACP), Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association (TennSEIA) and the Southern Alliance For Clean Energy (SACE). Among the individuals involved in the effort is Debbie Dooley, a founder of the Green Tea Coalition and Conservatives for Energy Freedom, who has become a national voice on energy issues from a conservative, pro-solar perspective.
One spokesperson for the TSC had an insider’s take on the TVA. S.David Freeman, former TVA Chairman, stated in the media release, “I’ve seen (the) Tennessee Valley Authority evolve and progress over the years, but the direction they are currently heading is concerning. TVA has both an opportunity and an obligation to the people of Tennessee to act as a leader, but instead they are lagging behind in solar, and this is not acceptable.” One of the specifics called for by TennSEIA is to revitalize the TVA Green Power Providers by restoring previous compensation rates and increasing the size allowed for PV installations in the program from 50 kW to 200 kW, while maintaining the 10 MW cap that would not adversely impact the TVA budget.