Citizens groups criticize TVA’s decision to build a 1.5 GW gas plant


TVA has announced it will build a fossil gas plant with at least 1.5 GW of capacity at the site of the Kingston coal plant in eastern Tennessee. The federally owned utility rejected the option of building solar and battery storage to replace the coal plant.

TVA said that although 15 GW of solar or solar-plus-storage projects are waiting in its transmission interconnection queue, “to maintain stability on TVA’s transmission system, TVA would need to accommodate the decreased influx of generated power” from the Kingston coal plant “as well as ensure that the multiple (15+) solar generating locations can be connected without impacting the existing grid for the areas surrounding the new solar sites.”

The TVA board, six of whose nine members were appointed by President Biden, “still has the power to reverse this reckless decision,” said Eric Hilt, a senior communications manager with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC). “We hope federal leaders will urge board members to scrap this proposed gas plant and invest in cleaner and cheaper energy options. As for SELC and our partners, we are evaluating our legal options.”

Gaby Sarri-Tobar, a campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD’s) energy justice program, said “TVA CEO Jeff Lyash’s approval of yet another costly, climate-killing” gas plant that would “jack up utility costs” and an associated 122-mile gas pipeline is “beyond reckless.” She added that TVA’s board “should fire” the CEO.

Citizens groups

Citizens groups have long advocated for TVA to transition to clean energy.

SELC early last year called for TVA’s board, with its new Biden appointees, to pause TVA’s plans to add gas generation.

CBD then co-sponsored a study by Synapse Energy Economics that found that 50 GW of solar and storage for TVA by 2035, plus electric vehicles, could save customers about $200 billion through 2050.

QCells USA Corporation joined citizens groups in signing a letter to TVA’s board last June calling for greater public engagement in the utility’s 2024 resource planning process.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) last August called on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to evaluate replacing TVA’s Kingston coal plant not with gas but with renewables, energy efficiency and storage, as part of the commission’s review of a proposed gas pipeline for the proposed gas unit.

CBD followed up by co-sponsoring a clean energy plan for TVA, again conducted by Synapse, which found that TVA could reach 100% clean energy by 2035 by adding 35 GW of solar and 13 GW of wind capacity. The plan was presented at a citizens hearing, and CBD and SACE called for TVA’s board to ensure that TVA reached the 100% target.

Just days before TVA’s Kingston gas plant announcement, SACE flagged that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had notified TVA that the utility’s final environmental impact statement for the Kingston gas plant had “serious deficiencies,” including a lack of transparency around the planning and decision-making processes.

A joint news release from SELC and Appalachian Voices about TVA’s gas plant decision said that EPA had raised additional “substantial concerns,” including underestimating climate and air pollution impacts, failing to reasonably consider clean energy alternatives, and preparing an unlawfully “inadequate” analysis. EPA also warned the gas plant could lead to higher power bills across the region, the groups said.

Eric Hilt with SELC said, however, that “it is our understanding that the window for EPA to refer the Kingston decision to the Council on Environmental Quality has closed.”

In their release, SELC and Appalachian Voices said that “recently, the public learned” that TVA’s board of directors “made a backroom deal to return final decision-making authority” on the proposed Kingston gas plant “back to the TVA CEO.” The groups added “the board’s abdication of decision-making power was buried in a general budget resolution that was not made public until months later and came shortly after the board publicly voted to take back authority over the Kingston decision.”

Gabi Lichtenstein, Tennessee energy democracy field coordinator at Appalachian Voices quoted in the release, posed the question: “Why is CEO Jeff Lyash, the highest paid federal employee in the country, making a decision that could cost ratepayers over a billion dollars more than the alternative?”

TVA serves 10 million customers across Tennessee, substantial portions of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Alabama, and parts of three other states.

This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: