TVA attempts to block solar cooperative


Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is causing trouble for the proposed Jackson Sustainability Cooperative, claiming that the cooperative would weaken TVA’s business, and its operation would violate the law.

Jackson Energy Authority said state law requires electricity in Jackson, Tennessee to be provided by the city-owned utility, which has an active agreement to purchase its power from TVA.

Organizers of the co-op are petitioning with the Tennessee Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to either grant a certificate to allow the operation of the co-op, or to grant an exemption from regulations that occlude independent power distribution within TVA territory. The cooperative is waiting for such an exemption so that it may secure financing and memberships from manufacturers. It plans to serve 38 major commercial and industrial customers located near a proposed $67 million solar and energy storage facility.

TVA President Jeff Lyash said TVA’s arrangement to supply power to 153 local power companies has been key to keeping rates affordable and power reliable. Enabling new energy suppliers to deliver power to selected customers could weaken the TVA’s business model, which is designed to serve all customers at all times across the region, Lyash said.

While simultaneously working with TVA to block the cooperative, Jackson Energy Authority said it has plans for a 25 MW solar project in the region and plans another 25 to 30 projects under development by customers. “TVA has a pretty wide array of solar programs for private entities, even for for-profit vendors,” said Monte Cooper Sr., VP of electric distribution for Jackson Energy Authority.

Proponents of the solar project and establishment of the co-op claim TVA is attempting to protect a monopoly. Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Executive Director Stephen Smith called TVA’s opposition to the project “devastating.”

The cooperative initially filed with the PUC in May. In December, the Commission deemed that both opponents and supporters of the project will need to reach an agreement on what must be submitted by the cooperative for the PUC to hear the case.

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