Skip to main content
Knoxville Downtown

Valley Pathways Study Stakeholder Working Group Meeting 1

May 3, 2023 – Knoxville, TN

TVA and the UT Baker Center for Public Policy were pleased to welcome our Valley Pathways Study stakeholders to the first meeting of the Stakeholder Working Group on May 3 at the Baker Center’s Toyota Auditorium at UT Knoxville. The majority of our 27-member Stakeholder Working Group attended the meeting in person, with most of the remaining members attending virtually via live webcast. The meeting was also attended by representatives from TVA and the Baker Center, as well as consultants on the project team. Many of these attendees also had the opportunity to meet each other the evening before the meeting at a casual Welcome Dinner hosted at Calhoun’s on the River.

TVA Project Lead Laura Duncan introduces the Valley Pathways Study to stakeholders.
TVA Project Lead Laura Duncan introduces the Valley Pathways Study to stakeholders.

The meeting kicked off with opening remarks from Brad Day, Marianne Wanamaker, and Charles Sims of the UT Baker Center, who spoke about the Baker Center’s upcoming expansion plans and forthcoming initiatives, particularly those related to carbon reduction and the energy industry. Rebecca Tolene, TVA’s Chief Sustainability Officer and VP of Environment then took over the podium to talk about the Valley Pathways Study and the importance of hearing all voices in the region as a pathway is forged.

Laura Duncan, TVA’s Valley Pathways Study Project Lead, then led introductions of all attendees, during which each attendee shared their name, organization, location, and something they do in their own lives to reduce carbon emissions or otherwise help the environment. Stakeholders in attendance (both in-person and remote) represented a wide range of economic sectors, industries, and interests across the Tennessee Valley region, including local power companies (LPCs), government officials, agricultural, industrial, transportation, and environmental justice, among others. The full list of organizations represented in the Stakeholder Working Group includes:

  • Ford Motor Company
  • City of Knoxville
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • 4County Electric
  • Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance
  • WestRock
  • Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
  • BrightRidge
  • Tennessee State University
  • UT Chattanooga
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • Redstone US Army Garrison DPW—Redstone Arsenal
  • Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation
  • Tennessee Valley Industrial Committee
  • Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light
  • University of Tennessee
  • Commonwealth of Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, Office of Energy Policy
  • Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council
  • Tennessee Department of Economic Development
  • Nashville Electric Service
  • City of Chattanooga
  • Tennessee Valley Public Power Association
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  • Middle Tennessee Natural Gas Utility District
  • City of Florence Electricity
  • Memphis and Shelby County Division of Planning and Development
Valley Pathways Study stakeholders represent major sectors, activities, and interests of the Tennessee Valley economy.
Valley Pathways Study stakeholders represent major sectors, activities, and interests of the Tennessee Valley economy.

The diversity of our stakeholders reflects the diversity of the region. Through engagement with these stakeholders and the general public, the Valley Pathways Study’s commitment to ensuring all voices are heard is clear.

After a short break, members of the consulting project team presented an overview on stakeholder involvement and expectations, as well as a deep dive into the Study’s technical aspects (including a “greenhouse gases 101” primer, a walkthrough of the study’s technical modeling approach, and a preview of the greenhouse gas (GHG) baseline for the Tennessee Valley region.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions 101

Valley-Wide Greenhouse Gas Emissions Comprise 3 Scopes
Jurisdictional inventories typically exclude "embodied" emissions that stem from parts
of life-cycle emissions that occur outside of the geographical area.
  • Multiple gases are "greenhouse gases" (GHGs).
  • GHGs are typically measured in units of pounds or tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)
  • Globally CO2 is the dominant gas, representing about 75% of annual emissions.
  • Most emissions come from the combustion of fossil fuels for energy consumption.

The baseline preview described the project team’s efforts so far to account for the GHG emissions of the entire region – every home, business, factory, car, truck, cow, and chicken. The remainder of the meeting focused primarily on the draft baseline – the project team sought feedback from the stakeholders to ensure that no sectors or activities were being left out, and that the sectors and activities included were being handled appropriately.

Valley GHG Baseline: Sample Approach

Key Problem: Characterizing a cross-jurisdictional service territory

Local and Regional metrics, activity and energy use is used to calculate energy use by sector at the local and Valley levels, which is then validated against a Valley Benchmark.

During the open discussion that followed the presentation, stakeholders posed several questions and comments, including the following:

Q: Why are we using a 2019 baseline year? The Federal baseline is 2005, and there has been a lot of progress in the Valley since then.
A: If the target is zero, the baseline year isn’t important. But it is important to reflect progress to date and for people to know the Valley isn’t starting from square one. We are using 2019 as the most recent non-pandemic year so it is a good starting point, but we can estimate from there back to 2005 to show the reductions mentioned.

Q: Will people be able to access the data used for the Study?
A: We are working on making sure that as many of our data sources as possible are publicly available.

Q: Electric vehicle adoption will increase the electric load on the grid – how is that being accounted for?
A: As all sectors (including transportation) decarbonize, they’re doing it through electrification, which will have a significant impact on TVA and the grid. Seeing those numbers will be an important part of scenario development later on in the Study.

Q: How will disadvantaged communities be accounted for in the baseline?
A: We will be linking parts of the baseline to higher-level qualitative narratives that account for things like building stock, prices, energy costs, etc.

Q: How will the results of the Study be used?
A: TVA is working hard to get to net zero by 2050, but how they do that is dependent on stakeholders and what they're doing. Let's use disadvantaged communities (DACs) as an example: EV penetration takes longer for these communities to receive benefits. Therefore, the plan is to take this study to explore potential pathways to net zero future and examine how those pathways will affect residents and businesses. It’s likely the study will raise even more questions than it answers.

Q: Will carbon sequestration and land use be built into the study?
A: Yes, that will be accounted for.

Q: How is transportation being modeled? Are you using national averages?
A: We are using national intensity factors but scaled to local activities. When mapped to the actual data we have, it is matching closely with local reported fuel usage. We also have additional data sources we can access, such as highway usage data.

Q: What data source is being used for residential and commercial sector?
A: NREL ResStock and ComStock, as well as EIA’s RECS and CBECS surveys. We also have data by different building types including end uses at a county level. Our models are calibrated to actual consumption in some utility territories.

Q: How are different building vintages being accounted for (e.g., insultation differences in old homes vs. new homes)?
A: Within the model, we can break down buildings into different types and vintages and use efficiency factors to scale up efficiencies over time to model technological advances as new buildings are added to the building stock year over year. We can also factor in upgrade costs and then see how those costs will propagate across the sector over time.

The open Q&A produced a robust dialog about the baseline and future scenario modeling. Stakeholder feedback will be taken into account as the baseline is finalized in the coming weeks.

Following the meeting, the group had the privilege to attend a presentation at the UT Spark Innovation Center (via an electric bus generously provided by the office of the Mayor of Knoxville), where four technology startups focusing on clean energy and energy transition delivered summaries of their work and plans for growth and innovation. The field trip was a perfect way to cap off the events, embodying some of the very technological advancements and research the Valley Pathways Study hopes to explore.

A generic square placeholder image with rounded corners in a figure.
Stakeholders and project team board the KAT electric bus to return to the Baker Center after a field trip at the Spark Innovation Center.

Next Steps

There will be five more Stakeholder Working Group meetings spread out over the course of 2023 (2 virtual and 3 more in-person in various locations around the Valley). Between meetings, the project team will be engaging stakeholders via focus sessions and informal meetings and calls to gather further feedback on the baseline, the “business-as-usual” scenario modeling, and the net-zero pathway scenarios. 

The project team welcomes the voice of the general public as well! Be sure to join our mailing list to stay up-to-date on happenings (including upcoming public webinars), and leave a public comment if you’d like to weigh in on the Study or have any questions

Stay tuned for more updates as the Valley Pathways Study progresses!

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.

Learn more.

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.