Valley Pathways Study Public Webinar
July 11, 2023
The Valley Pathways Study team was excited to host a live webinar on July 11, 2023 to introduce the public to the study and answer their questions. A full recording of the webinar and additional Q&A can be found below.
Webinar registrants had the opportunity to submit questions ahead of time and to ask them live during the webinar. Some questions were answered live, but due to limited time, some were not – questions not answered during the live session are addressed below. Some questions have been edited slightly for clarity/spelling/grammar, but content has not been changed.
The following questions were answered live on the webinar. Please view the recording above to hear answers to these questions.
- How is the study evaluating impacts on equity and environmental justice?
- Is the study just looking at energy and greenhouse gases or are there other metrics and outcomes?
- Does the modeling look at non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions?
- What is the difference between the Valley Pathways Study and the TVA’s IRP?
- How will this study be used with TVA's IRP?
- How will the integrated resource plan incorporate the lessons learned?
- Did TVA evaluate and how will it incorporate other studies like Synapse’s Clean Energy Future study?
- How will public and stakeholder feedback be incorporated?
- Will the TVA Board of Directors have a vote on the outcome(s) from this study?
- How will the Study be put into practical decision making for the future?
The following questions were submitted either during webinar registration or live during the webinar, but time did not allow for an answer to be given during the webinar. These questions have been organized by topic, and answers to these questions are provided below.
Study Methodology and Outcomes
Q: How were stakeholders selected? The website lists what organizations the stakeholders come from but does not say how they were selected. Were they invited by TVA, was there a solicitation for anyone to sign up, did the Baker Center make suggestions?
A: Stakeholder selection began with several brainstorming sessions among Baker Center (now the Baker School), TVA, and project team personnel to develop a list of the key economic sectors and interests that would need to be represented. This list was guided by experience on other similar studies, as well as experience with existing and former stakeholder working groups. Additional research and outreach were conducted to solicit ideas for other sectors/areas to be represented. Once the list of sectors/interests was developed, TVA and the UT Baker School worked with existing stakeholders to conduct outreach to potential working group members to help ensure we had good representation of the sectors/interests listed. Recruitment took place over several weeks, with suggestions from the first round of stakeholder recruits informing further rounds, before arriving at a final stakeholder list.
Q: How can TVA better feed its problem statements into the ecosystem to help drive the innovation TVA needs to reach its goals?
A: TVA can help drive the innovation needed to reach our goals by sharing our problem statements with our innovation partners. TVA can lead by being transparent about the challenges facing the energy industry today, and then collaborating with our research and technology partners to develop shared solutions to address those specific challenges. These shared problem statements should come from across the enterprise to help guide needed innovations in support of both existing operations and future initiatives.
Q: What experts and studies will be used to help inform or model this study?
A: The project has assembled a consulting team with extensive expertise and experience in pathways modeling, including several other net-zero planning studies from around the nation. TVA’s partnership with the UT Baker School for Public Policy and Public Affairs enables us to leverage the knowledge of some of our country’s top public policy specialists. In addition, the project is guided by a Stakeholder Working Group (SWG) comprised of experts and perspectives from key sectors throughout the economy. The SWG has been a critical resource in identifying information and additional research for developing the framework and input parameters for scenarios. For example, our SWG representative from the agricultural sector was able to provide us with studies and data demonstrating how farming in the Valley differs from the rest of the nation, making our GHG baseline more accurate for this sector.
Q: What can any lay person, whether a teenager, college student, middle ager, or retiree, do to actively support our efforts? Please be specific in the suggestions, including the age group to which each applies, in the answer to the above question.
A: One action that everyone from teenagers through retirees can do is to help us understand projects and efforts already underway to reduce carbon emissions and capture them as part of the Valley Pathways Study. Please send us a description of the project and location (county or city) through our “Share Your Thoughts” link on this page. We also welcome suggestions for developing and implementing future projects through the link. For more information on programs TVA currently offers to help people of all ages, as well as businesses, reduce their carbon footprint, please visit EnergyRight.com. TVA Kids also offers tips for younger students to save energy, and TVA STEM provides information for students and lesson plans for teachers on a variety of topics, including environmental stewardship.
Q: How about identifying priority areas in each sector in short, medium, and long term and developing business models? How about suggesting key metrics to design measurement, reporting, and verification processes (MRV)? Are these part of the project scope?
A: The study will highlight priority areas for driving forward decarbonization, including identifying near-term actions and longer-term optionality. For such areas, the study will work to develop microeconomic analysis, such as the net costs and benefits of buying an EV vs. a gasoline car. These may highlight critical financial and non-financial barriers, pointing toward a “business case” for how to drive the transition forward economically.
Q: Does the study incorporate TVA’s 2050 net zero target into its assumptions in every pathway? If not, why not?
A: Grid decarbonization is a component of any net zero pathway, and as such TVA’s carbon aspirations will be a component of this study. TVA’s Integrated Resource Planning process is underway to guide the agency’s strategic direction for how TVA will meet the electricity needs of the Valley region in the future in a least cost, reliable, and responsible manner. For more information, visit TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan page.
Q: Does the study include scenarios that account for carbon pricing or regulation?
A: At present, the scenarios do not include these details, but as the study moves forward, VPS Project Staff and the Stakeholder Working Group may elect to study these specific elements.
Q: Will the study align with ‘Long-term Strategy of the United States: Pathways to Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050’?
A: The study will look to the White House’s stated policy for guidance, but will be looking specifically at how the Valley can decarbonize proactively, rather than how it can react to emerging policy frameworks.
Q: How does the study incorporate incentives being implemented through the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act?
A: The impact of incentives will be analyzed as part of understanding how specific measures might impact economics of households, businesses, industries, and communities.
Q: How is the study treating agriculture in the Valley distinct from agriculture in the rest of the country, as mentioned in the webinar?
A: The Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation stakeholder provided information and introductions to other Valley agriculture experts to show that TN farms use no-till practices at a rate about four times higher than the national average. The project team learned that the cattle raised in the Valley are mostly calves who are not confined for milking and mostly on pasture. These are some high-impact examples of ways the agriculture baseline was revised to reflect practices in the Valley.
Q: Why are methane emissions from agriculture included in the “non-energy” category rather than directly attributed to agriculture? Will the study include information about the breakdown within the non-energy category between methane from agriculture and other sources, such as refrigerants?
A: Other non-energy emissions such as from wastewater, trash, and refrigerant leakage may not divide neatly into sectors, and the mitigation strategies tend to relate to these non-energy industries better than the sectors served. We are treating agriculture’s non-energy emissions the same as these other non-energy sources.
Q: Will a full draft of the study be circulated for public comment before the final public webinar?
A: A draft will not be posted for public comment as this is a study and public comment is open now via the project website (see link to the right of this page). We will continue to welcome public comment once the initial report is produced. Public comments may then be used along with the report in future Valley research and carbon reduction efforts.
Q: How is the public supposed to meaningfully comment on this study if it does not have access to the same information as the stakeholder group convened by TVA and the Baker School?
A: Information shared with the stakeholder group is made available after each stakeholder meeting on the project website. In reviewing those materials, if you ever have questions or clarifications, please feel free to reach out to VPS project staff.
Q: Provide an overview of how the hydrogen hub will impact the economy and create high quality jobs in the valley.
A: Investments like Hydrogen Hub funding are a proven pathway for jobs and economic development; however, the specifics will depend a lot on what funding DOE awards to the Valley. A critical component here will be the willingness of local institutions to co-invest in the project, ensuring that jobs and other benefits remain in the Valley rather than being exported. The Hydrogen Hub will enable the entire region to invest in production and distribution installations that will require skilled workers to produce, maintain, distribute, and operate. The Hub will allow us to have targeted carbon emission reduction while also decreasing our reliance on traditional carbon-based fuel sources.
Q: Regarding R&D partnerships - how will TVA partner with companies (both early stage and large, well-established companies) on technology development?
A: TVA will continue to partner with companies, both early-stage and established, by (1) clearly communicating the challenges we’re trying to solve, and (2) creating partnerships and pathways through which we can readily demonstrate technologies and business model solutions. We will also continue to work to facilitate pilot projects where applicable, as well as to build out our engagement with Valley universities.
Q: Are there strategies to ramp up battery recycling?
A: The vast majority of EV batteries are still in operation inside vehicles from the last decade. However, lithium-ion battery recycling technology will continue to scale and advance as this first generation of EV batteries begins to age out of operation. Automakers and battery suppliers are working to reclaim and reuse the valuable materials found inside lithium batteries to reduce new battery costs as well as lessen the need to mine or extract and refine additional materials. The Department of Energy is investing heavily to scale lithium-ion battery recycling for consumer electronics and electric vehicles. Several of the joint venture companies between automakers and battery manufactures to build new EV batteries also feature recycling partners and facilities co-located where the batteries will be made.
Q: Is there enough power to supply EV use by the majority of people?
A: There are about 40,000 electric vehicles (EVs) in the Tennessee Valley today. This represents far less than 1% of vehicles on the road with no impact on TVA. It is important to note that the majority of EV charging occurs at homes during off-peak hours when TVA has excess electrical capacity. That means the impact of EVs on the electric grid is similar to clothes dryers, water heaters, or any other home electrical appliance consumers may use. TVA’s goal to see 200,000 EVs in the Valley by 2028 would only equal 0.5% of TVA load and TVA continuously plans for various EV adoption scenarios in load forecasting as well as longer-term integrated resource planning. With proper planning and technology development, EV adoption can serve as a valuable energy storage resource for local power companies and TVA to better manage the power system and keep rates low for all consumers.
Q: We need trees for clean air; if trees are removed for solar installations wouldn't that be negating what's trying to be accomplished?
A: There are certainly going to be trade-offs in any pathway to net zero. Some pathways will get us there faster, others at lower cost – the purpose of the study is to lay out the options so that policymakers and decision-makers can make their decisions in an informed and educated way. New solar installations would not necessarily require deforestation – there are often plenty of urban, suburban, brownfield, or otherwise already-cleared sites where solar panels might be installed with little to no impact on the surrounding environment. Any new solar installation would need to undergo evaluation to determine its impact on the environment, and any tree clearing that would need to occur would certainly be considered in evaluating a new solar installation at that particular site.
Q: I am interested in helping small congregations and non-profits figure out what programs are available to help improve energy efficiency in buildings. Many of these entities get stuck at the very beginning of the process, doing an energy audit and accessing the expertise of providers to figure out the cost-effective steps which need to be taken. How does reducing energy demand figure into the roadmap?
A: Energy efficiency is one of the major pillars of decarbonization, alongside electrification and clean energy supply. Our study includes a scenario that tests the technical potential (that is, what is possible with no other constraints) as well as a baseline grounded in historical uptake in order to investigate the costs and benefits of developing programs to help overcome the barriers you rightly identify. To learn more, contact your local power company or visit EnergyRight.com.
Q: What part will natural gas play in the net zero pathway in the TN Valley by 2050?
A: Natural gas is used in many applications today, from home heating and cooking to industrial applications to electricity generation and beyond. To reach net zero, the use of gas in these applications must decline, but net zero pathways do not always mean zero fossil combustion. Different future scenarios may result in more or less natural gas still in use in 2050, with trade-offs for other sectors and fuels and potentially increased carbon sequestration or capture.
For TVA’s electricity system, natural gas allows us to add more renewable energy to the grid because it can generate reliable power to meet electricity demand when renewable sources are not available.
Natural gas is helping TVA:
- Get to our carbon reduction goals faster by retiring the last of our coal plants by 2035. Natural gas generation produces 60% less carbon than coal. New gas units are 65-70% more efficient than our aging coal plants and are significantly more flexible.
- Integrate and increase our use of intermittent renewable energy. Gas generation can be turned on when renewable resources are not generating – overnight, when there’s cloud cover, or when the wind isn’t blowing – enabling us to add more renewable energy to the system and keeping the energy supply reliable.
- Lead the industry on carbon reduction while continuing to offer some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, while sustaining our long-term track record of 99.999% reliability.
We look forward to adopting more carbon-free technologies when they are ready for commercial use. Until then, natural gas is the most mature option available today to provide year-round dispatchable power to meet the energy needs of the Valley region while reducing our carbon emissions.
Q: Ruminant livestock emissions along with manure lagoons are almost equal to methane from gas. Will TVA educate the public about this methane emergency from ruminant livestock?
A: Stakeholder discussions in this project have included research at Middle Tennessee Research Center on methane emission rates from cattle and the potential for certain food additives to lower these emissions. Strategies to reduce these emissions will likely be in the final report.
Q: What kind of restrictions will impact this kind of planning for a decarbonized region?
A: The scenarios we develop, although speculative about future technology and adoption, always keeps reality in mind – be it the natural turnover rates for old vehicles and uptake of new vehicles, or the costs and constraints of technologies.
Q: Why is TVA pursuing a gas plant in Cheatham County if the agency is interested in decarbonization?
A: Natural gas offers a dispatchable energy source that provides reliability and resiliency and helps us integrate more renewable energy sources into our system. As our generating mix evolves, we must address our obligations – balancing cost and reliability with the drive to reduce carbon emissions for the region and our nation. The flexibility of gas helps us more rapidly expand renewables across the region, as it provides a backstop to more intermittent resources such as solar and wind.
Q: Is hydrogen a part of the low-carbon fuels scenario, and if so, does the modeling include excess generating resources to generate hydrogen or is it assumed that hydrogen will be generated elsewhere and transported into the Valley?
A: Although the study is not yet complete, hydrogen and other low-carbon fuels are very likely going to be part of the solution set for getting the Valley to net zero. The study could show either of these outcomes – quite possibly both – but it is not far enough along at this point to be able to give the answer.
In addition to the questions above, we received a number of questions that are outside the scope of the Valley Pathways Study. Some of these questions were more specific to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) – those questions have been passed along to the IRP team. The remaining questions were generally related to specific tactical issues that will need to be addressed in the future. The role of the Valley Pathways Study is to identify the broad pathways to Net Zero by 2050 – the specific steps taken to follow those pathways will be up to Valley residents, business owners, policymakers, and other key stakeholders.
What is a Pathways Study?
A Pathways Study uses scenario-based analysis to compare several possible visions of the future to help determine the timing, scale and effects of achieving greenhouse gas limits.
Join the Study
Please visit the Valley Pathways Study page at the UT Baker School to join the study mailing list and share your feedback on the preliminary findings report.