The members of TVA’s Board of Directors answer questions about TVA’s environmental protection initiatives.
How can TVA help meet the Tennessee Valley’s growing energy and economic development needs while still protecting the natural resources that draw industries, residents, and visitors to our region?
Chairman Glenn L. McCullough, Jr.: More than ever, we are intent on setting and reaching goals that enable TVA to achieve excellence in both business performance and public service. As TVA prepares to face the business challenges of a changing electric-utility industry, we never forget what TVA means to the 8.5 million people of the Tennessee Valley. TVA means that the lights stay on and the bill is affordable. TVA means the river is healthier and provides flood control, navigation, recreation, and affordable power to the public. TVA means the air is cleaner for everyone to breathe as a result of the emissions-control equipment TVA is adding at our 11 fossil plants. And TVA means the creation and retention of more and better jobs, empowering families to work hard and build better lives.
By balancing competing demands on TVA’s integrated river and power system, TVA protects the environment while managing the river to provide multiple benefits. And by using the latest renewable technologies to expand our Green Power Switch® program and other renewable technology programs, TVA continually works to find new, cleaner ways to meet the region’s needs for sufficient, reliable, affordable electricity. In addition, TVA is continually strengthening partnerships to encourage energy conservation and is investing wisely and effectively in new generating capacity, transmission system improvements, and clean-air equipment. This environmental report gives stakeholders an update both on TVA’s important environmental stewardship advances and its ongoing challenges, while also discussing how TVA is developing solutions that will help preserve our region’s natural resources and quality of life for generations to come.
In 2001, TVA reported that it would implement an enhanced Environmental Management System (EMS), its results-oriented method of managing environmental performance, by May 2002. Was that goal met, and what progress has been made?
Director Skila Harris: Yes, I’m pleased to report that TVA achieved its 2002 goal for full implementation of the updated EMS. The EMS is a tool to ensure that each employee understands TVA’s responsibilities and legal requirements when it comes to environmental stewardship. More important, however, the EMS is a way to factor that understanding into everything we do. Through standardization and continuous improvement, it maximizes efficiency and effectiveness, enabling TVA to focus on achieving the greatest environmental benefit for each dollar invested. The EMS also provides measurable environmental performance information that allows us to better manage risk, thus improving TVA’s financial performance.
We had expected to see multiple benefits from implementation of the EMS, including increased conservation of materials and energy, better environmental protection management, and an overall competitive advantage for TVA. So far, the results have exceeded our expectations. Since implementation of the new system, TVA has saved in excess of $20 million cumulatively and has reduced internal audit findings by 67 percent. TVA is the first federal agency to fully implement its EMS at all facilities.
How will restarting Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant Unit 1 affect the environment?
Director Bill Baxter: TVA must continue to secure new energy resources to keep pace with our region’s growing economy, which brings jobs to the people of the Tennessee Valley. Nuclear power generation provides clean, affordable, and reliable power. In fact, it is an emission-free technology compared to fossil-fuel combustion. According to the Nuclear Energy Institute, nuclear generation worldwide kept 67.3 million metric tons (74.5 million tons) of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 34.2 million metric tons (37.7 million tons) of nitrogen oxides (NOx) out of the air between 1973 and 2002.
So for TVA, restarting Browns Ferry Nuclear (BFN) Unit 1 in Decatur, Alabama, was a solid business decision in terms of power supply, cost, generation mix, delivered cost of power, and the environment. This $1.8 billion investment is scheduled to add 1,280 megawatts of generating capacity to the TVA system by 2007. BFN Unit 1, projected to be the nation’s first nuclear unit brought online in the 21st century, is expected to pay for itself through power revenues by 2015. Bringing this additional nuclear-generated power back into the mix is consistent with TVA’s commitment to pursue opportunities to reduce, avoid, or sequester its greenhouse gas emissions.
How well did TVA meet its environmental objectives and targets for 2002-2003?
Chairman McCullough: During 2000, TVA developed 15 specific operational targets through the EMS that had the greatest potential for improving our environmental protection efforts or were required by state or federal regulations. These targets included reductions in both solid and radioactive waste production and decreases in emissions to the air. All 15 targets are incorporated into TVA’s performance plans, and progress is monitored on an ongoing basis. The results for 2002 and 2003 were mixed. For example, TVA’s production of low-level radioactive waste and hazardous waste increased from 2001 levels. However, TVA continued to develop innovative ways to recycle other wastes into usable products, preventing additional pollutants from entering the air, water, and land.
From 2002 to 2003, the utilization of coal-combustion products increased from 48 to 55 percent. Coal-combustion products, which can strengthen construction materials, provide plant nutrients, and enhance depleted soils in various agricultural applications, represent a vastly underused resource.
Director Baxter: Although TVA missed both its SO2 and NOx targets in 2003, it continues to make great strides in its efforts to improve air quality in the Valley. Having already invested $4 billion through 2003 in clean-air equipment, TVA plans to spend on the order of $2 billion on the installation of additional selective catalytic reduction (SCR) systems and new flue-gas desulfurization systems, or scrubbers, which help reduce SO2 emissions from coal-fired plants.
When all the scrubbers are in place, TVA will be on target to achieve an 85 percent reduction in SO2 emissions from 1977 levels. The 6.1 percent power rate adjustment effective in fiscal year 2004, only the second rate increase in 16 years, enables TVA to invest some $2.5 billion—about a million dollars a day through the end of this decade—in scrubbers to extract SO2 and SCRs to reduce NOx emissions.
As part of its $1.3 billion NOx reduction program, TVA completed four more SCR installations—one each at Cumberland, Widows Creek, Allen, and Paradise fossil plants—bringing the total number of operational SCRs to eight. The remaining installations will be completed by 2005. This intensive pollution-control program, one of the largest in the nation, will help TVA meet its goal of reducing NOx emissions at its plants by 70 to 75 percent during the summer ozone season. Included in the NOx reduction program is a new clean air technology, NOxStar, which TVA continued to develop during 2003. Although NOxStar does not reduce NOx emissions quite as effectively as an SCR, its lower capital cost and ease of installation could enable TVA to add control systems to more units.
Director Harris: In terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, TVA’s renewable energy program, Green Power Switch (GPS), continued to add both distributors and customers in 2002–2003. Launched in 2000 with 12 distributors, it now has 65. In 2002 the program earned two top-10 national rankings, for energy production and customer participation.
GPS was the first renewable energy program in the region that offered power from wind, solar, and methane gas technologies. These resources can be used with a greatly reduced impact on the climate compared with fossil fuels. Having an adequate supply of renewable generation continues to be a challenge, however. Without additional supply, GPS will not be able to expand into more distributor territories. One innovative solution we’re exploring involves acquiring solar and wind generation from residential and small commercial customers through the GPS Generation Partners program. These suppliers receive credits on their energy bills for all the power they generate from these renewable sources.
Does the public have any say in the way TVA carries out its environmental strategies?
Chairman McCullough: An essential part of TVA’s relationship with Valley citizens is gathering input from those who live, work, and play here. Responding to the diverse values and priorities of all of our stakeholders is an ongoing challenge. TVA’s Reservoir Operations Study is a good example of how TVA has asked the people of the Valley to help us determine if changes in our reservoir system operating policies would produce greater overall public value.
As part of this comprehensive study, TVA received input from the general public, from an Interagency Team composed of representatives from 10 federal agencies and six Valley states, and from a 13-member Public Review Group, which includes representatives from various businesses, municipal utilities, and stakeholder groups. TVA also conducted a number of community workshops at various locations across the Tennessee Valley. This feedback was used to define the scope of the study, identify public values, and develop and evaluate alternatives.
The recommendation to initiate this comprehensive study came from the Regional Resource Stewardship Council (RRSC), which was created in 2000 to advise TVA on the management of natural resources in the Tennessee Valley. The purpose of this 20-member council is to gather advice on natural resource management from the public and private sectors so that TVA can be responsive to the needs of people across the region. The first-term council made a number of recommendations to the TVA Board during its two-year tenure. The second-term RRSC was convened in October 2002 with both new and returning members. Key issues addressed by the council include water supply, recreation, and management of public lands.
TVA is committed to improving the quality of life in the region through responsible environmental stewardship and balanced, integrated management of the Tennessee River system. Listening and responding to stakeholders helps us fulfill our mission: to keep the lights on, to reduce the impact of floods, to provide water for recreation and navigation, and to enable our region to compete for the manufacturing and high-tech jobs that continue to bring new people and new opportunities to the Valley. It is a mission that is more relevant and valuable than ever to the people in the Tennessee Valley.