TVA issues one of the nation's largest requests for carbon-free energy

Staff File Photo / The TVA building is shown in downtown Chattanooga in this Feb. 16, 2012, file photo.

The Tennessee Valley Authority on Tuesday issued one of the nation's largest requests for carbon-free energy as the utility moves ahead with pursuing its clean-energy goals.

TVA is seeking up to 5,000 megawatts of carbon-free energy that must be operational before 2029.

"We are taking this bold, decisive action because TVA is uniquely positioned to lead in reducing carbon emissions for the region and the nation," TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash said in a statement. "This announcement is a clear signal to our industry, our partners and our nation that we need to move further and faster, together, to make a cleaner future a reality."

The agency's request for proposals is the largest this year for any utility and the biggest in TVA history, according to the agency.

TVA aims to reduce carbon from 2005 levels by 70% by 2030, 80% by 2035, and it hopes to reach net-zero carbon levels by 2050. To support its carbon-reduction goals, the agency said it's aggressively exploring and accelerating carbon-free technologies and moving to bring an additional 10,000 megawatts of solar energy capacity online by 2035.

"At TVA, we are outcome-focused," Lyash said. "We are committed to developing potential pathways to a clean energy future."

Proposals must be submitted by Oct. 19, the agency said. TVA will announce selected projects in spring 2023.

Developers can review TVA's request for proposals and submit bids at tva.com/Information/Doing-Business-with-TVA.

Don Moul, TVA's chief operating officer, said in a telephone interview that the request for proposals augments and supports the utility's decarbonization goals.

"It gives a sense of what's out in the marketplace," he said, citing solar development, nuclear or a green gas made from biomass or hydrogen.

Moul said TVA wants to deliver affordable, reliable, resilient and clean power to the valley. He said more of its customers are looking for a zero-carbon or sustainable power supply to help meet their goals, he said.

"It's part of what our customers are looking for," Moul said. "Our charge is to do it in a way that's responsible."

According to TVA, clean energy is fueling growth across TVA's seven-state service territory.

Since 2018, TVA's Green Invest program has generated more than $3 billion in investment across its region. TVA officials said they believe its renewable energy programs are one element that helped drive the agency's record-setting economic development performance in the first six months of fiscal year 2022 by attracting or retaining more than 40,900 jobs and more than $7.3 billion in capital investment.

Lyash said that last year about 270 companies selected the Tennessee Valley to do business because of TVA's low-cost, reliable and clean energy.

In April, Envision AESC, an electric vehicle battery technology company, announced a 2,000-job, $2 billion investment to build a new battery factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky, because of TVA's renewable energy programs, according to the utility.

"Our region is the nation's premier destination for business, and a big reason for that is because of TVA's renewable energy efforts," Lyash said. "Soon 2,000 families will have good jobs and the Envision facility will be powered by 100% renewable energy."

In Chattanooga, Volkswagen has invested $800 million in its assembly plant to ready for production of an electric SUV, the ID.4.

Also, Australia-based battery materials maker Novonix has unveiled plans to invest $160 million retrofitting a former turbine manufacturing plant in Chattanooga.

Lyash said he sees decarbonization as a strategic advantage and is guiding the agency's holistic approach. Last year the agency announced $2 billion in new transmission infrastructure investments, through 2025, to build the energy system of the future and improve grid capabilities.

Also, TVA launched an additional exploration of technologies such as next-generation carbon capture, hydroelectric pumped storage and hydrogen.

In addition, TVA partnered with Ontario Power Group, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Kairos Power to make the region a national epicenter for advanced nuclear technology research and development.

"There is no single answer to achieving our nation's decarbonization and energy security goals," Lyash said. "TVA is accelerating change across the industry to expand carbon-free technologies to decarbonize the grid while integrating emerging technologies through innovative solutions to meet customer-driven demand and build a future that leaves no one behind in the new clean energy economy."

TVA has shut down more than half of the 59 coal-fired generating units it once operated and plans to phase out the remainder of its coal units by 2035. Natural gas plants have helped cut carbon emissions by more than half compared to the less efficient coal plants they replace and have aided TVA in trimming its overall carbon emissions by more than 60% since 2005. But the new gas plants continue to emit carbon, albeit at a lower level.

Contact Mike Pare at [email protected] or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.