The Tennessee Valley Authority, popularly known as the TVA, is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity to business customers and local power companies. According to its website, “it serves 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. It receives no taxpayer funding and derives virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity.
“In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation and land management for the Tennessee River system and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation.”
The TVA grew out of the Rural Electrification Program — a socialist program if there ever was one — that was part of the package of New Deal legislation designed to lift the United States out of the Depression. You might think such a large electricity supplier would be at the forefront of providing clean, renewable energy to its customers, but you would be wrong.
The TVA, influenced by the Koch Brothers’ prostitutes who have captured the federal government, is a strong supporter of coal, gas, and nuclear generation. None of that socialist, treehugger renewable energy tripe for the TVA, no sirree. If it was good enough for Thomas Edison, it’s good enough for the TVA.
Friends Of The Earth Weighs In
Friends Of The Earth has a simple mission — stop turning the Earth into a lifeless cinder. Simple, huh? Well, OK, it’s a little more detailed than that. According to an e-mail to CleanTechnica, it says, “In order to address the risks shown by disastrous climate change, the US, along with all other countries, must move decisively to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power with greenhouse gas free renewable energy, energy storage and energy efficiency technologies. The promise of a 100% renewable energy future is not a fantasy, but a necessity. Friends of the Earth is dedicated to assuring that the green energy transition can and will be made while assuring environmental and economic justice.”
Friends of the Earth is working hard to convince the TVA to clean up its act, particularly for the people of Memphis who represents the TVA’s largest block of customers. Its Clean Energy program is working to “transform the Tennessee Valley Authority from a federal utility committed to generating electricity from climate and environment destroying coal, gas and nuclear power to one which leads the country in applying energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies in the quest to assure its customers with low cost, safe, clean energy for economic development across the region.
“A particular focus of the program is to work with activists and community and business leaders in Memphis to develop ambitious efficiency and solar power programs to address poverty and the need for job creation in Memphis, Tennessee.”
Last week, officials from the TVA and Memphis Light, Gas & Water got together to discuss the future. According to the Times Free Press, “For the first time in 13 years, the Tennessee Valley Authority is offering cheaper power for the municipalities and power cooperatives that distribute its electricity if they agree to long-term purchase contracts with the federal utility.”
Sounds like good news, doesn’t it? Not so, says Friends of the Earth which wants public disclosure of the details of the contract offered at that meeting. “According to news reports,” it says, “the Board discussed offering its retail distribution customers, including MLGW, a 3% rebate on its price of electricity in exchange for a 20-year commitment to purchase at least 95% of their power from TVA.”
S. David Freeman, former head of the TVA under President Carter and a senior advisor to Friends of the Earth, says, “Memphis Light Gas and Water and its customers could save hundreds of millions of dollars per year by leaving the TVA for cheaper, cleaner power. The TVA cannot lure Memphis to keep its contract with a hollow offer like this one — it’s not even a guaranteed rate freeze and its proposed 3.1% rate rebate could easily be offset by future rate increases they can make at any time. It is obvious that the TVA cannot match the low market prices now available through the solar and wind power that they stubbornly refuse to embrace.”
“As the largest consumers of TVA energy, Memphis ratepayers deserve a better deal than this,” adds Herman Morris, former head of MLGW and a special advisor to Friends of the Earth. “Rather than making a real offer to match the hundreds of millions that Memphians could be saving, the TVA is offering crumbs. MLGW and the city should continue with their IRP and assure that Memphians get the cheaper, cleaner and safer power they deserve.”
The primary issue is stranded assets. The TVA is locked into supporting a number of expensive coal-fired and nuclear generating facilities that will take decades to pay off. Rather than promote the best interests of its customers, it is seeking to insulate itself from poor business decisions made years ago.
There is a cure. It is called bankruptcy, and if it is good enough for hundreds of thousands of Americans who cannot pay their medical bills, then it is good enough for the TVA. Time to face the music, TVA. Your business model is unsustainable and your customers should not have to pay to clean up your mess.
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