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Valley Pathways Study Stakeholder Working Group Meeting 5

September 19-20, 2023

TVA and the UT Baker School for Public Policy and Public Affairs were pleased to welcome our Valley Pathways Study stakeholders to the fifth meeting of the Stakeholder Working Group on September 19-20, held at the Tennessee State University Business Incubation Center in downtown Nashville. Eighteen stakeholders attended the meeting (eleven in person and seven virtually) to provide feedback on the draft Roadmap Report. The meeting was also attended by representatives from TVA and the Baker School, as well as consultants on the project team.

Business center

The fifth Stakeholder Meeting was hosted at TSU’s Business Incubation Center.

Day 1

Laura Duncan, Senior Project Manager at TVA, welcomed the group and went through the project’s most recent list of accomplishments, including the coordination of TVA with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) on pilot projects throughout the Valley. Additionally, since the last stakeholder meeting, the project team had completed modeling of all proposed pathways and drafted the initial Roadmap Report. The review of this draft report was the focus of this fifth stakeholder meeting. Before beginning the draft review, Jackie Kessler, Director of the TSU Business Incubation Center, introduced the Center’s mission and outlined how it is already partnering with organizations and groups across the Valley to help better train businesses to drive and capitalize upon the region’s decarbonization journey.

Since the fourth stakeholder meeting held virtually at the end of August, stakeholder feedback was incorporated into the scenario modeling as well as the Roadmap Report structure. Among the feedback that was incorporated was a further discussion of the purpose of the Valley Pathways Study, how decarbonization will impact Valley residents, how the Valley could benefit from the energy transition, and how disadvantaged communities and other equity concerns would be addressed. Metrics were also developed to measure implementation progress, including economic factors, energy efficiency measures, equity indicators, total emissions reduced, and individual metrics such as vehicle miles travelled and housing stock.

After discussing the changes made to the report and the metrics developed, the project team walked stakeholders through the report outline and gave “homework assignments” to the group. Each breakout group was assigned a report section or focus, and stakeholders were asked to review their assigned sections before Day 2 of the meeting. On Day 2, they would be asked to meet with their groups, compare notes, and present a consolidated set of feedback for their assigned section.

The group adjourned for the day and made a field trip to Nashville’s Music City Solar installation. The solar installation was once a landfill off I-65 and is now the site of Nashville’s first community solar park, with over 17,000 panels. Valley Pathways Study stakeholder Tony Richman of Nashville Electric Service and his colleague provided an overview of the installation’s history, construction, output, and future plans. This trip was a great way for the stakeholder group to see decarbonization in action.

Solar farm

Stakeholders and project team exploring Music City Solar.

Day 2

Day 2 of the meeting began with opening remarks from Kendra Abkowitz, the Chief Sustainability and Resilience Officer of the Office of the Mayor of Nashville. Dr. Abkowitz outlined Nashville’s long history of city planning for sustainability and how this foundation is critical in supporting decarbonization plans in the future. Nashville has tracked its greenhouse gas emissions since 2005 and has seen decreases largely tied to energy efficiency improvement measures; transportation still accounts for more than 50% of the city’s emissions, making expanded public transit and electric vehicle charging infrastructure a key part of the city’s future development plans. To better support climate mitigation efforts across the city, the Sustainability Advisory Committee was formed in the Mayor’s Office to engage stakeholders and advise Nashville’s decarbonization decision-makers. Roughly 100 stakeholders are engaged with the office and the group has issued more than 300 different recommendations that have influenced city policies to help achieve Nashville’s goal of decreasing emissions by 80% from its 2014 baseline by 2050. Some of the programs recommended and launched by the committee include pilots for food scrap pickup, solar installations, and opportunities for electrification or low-carbon fuel usage in municipal vehicle fleets.

Nashville Emissions

A breakdown of Nashville’s most recently reported emissions.

After concluding the opening remarks, stakeholders broke out into their pre-assigned groups to discuss their “homework assignments.” The first breakout group focused on the Executive Summary and Introduction of the report. Stakeholders emphasized that this section should introduce quality of life and quality of place as themes that appear throughout the report to tie readers into what is at stake in the Valley. Contributions made by stakeholders should also be highlighted to drive home that this isn’t just a TVA or UT report, but rather a report that is intended for everyone in the Valley. A key part of any report’s executive summary is introducing to the reader early on to the question of “What’s in it for me?” Answering this question – along with keeping report methodology, data sources, and stakeholders transparent – will engage readers reassure them of the report’s agenda and content.

The second breakout group focused on the Environmental Justice and Community Impact section of the report (along with the larger question of how this theme should be woven into the larger report in general). The group began by stating that both low- and moderate-income communities should be discussed in the report; stakeholders expressed that past reports have had a tendency to focus almost entirely on low-income communities, when moderate-income families will be equally impacted by decarbonization. It was recommended that the report further discuss how each scenario and pillar covered in the report impacts equity and what challenges, opportunities, and threats to equity exist across each pathway. Finally, the group recommended ensuring that discussions of poverty and vulnerabilities be explored in both urban and rural communities and that strategies for proposing equity measures to state and municipal legislatures be included in the section.

The third group discussed the Scenarios, Modeling, and High-Level Approaches section of the report. For this section, stakeholders suggested clarifying what is meant by “the Valley” and how the project team recommends that decision-makers across sectors and jurisdictions coordinate to implement decarbonization plans. To this end, the group recommended that each scenario set clear goals or targets for the Valley that outline potential emissions reductions, energy savings, and mechanisms for verifying and reporting on implementation success. The group recognized that there is a high level of uncertainty around issues such as land-use reform and carbon sequestration opportunities, but emphasized that these measures, along with other burgeoning technologies, should still be considered in the scenarios going forward. Discussions on the feasibility of these technologies would further inform readers and give them an idea of how impactful these technologies will be to the goal of achieving emissions targets in the future.

The fourth and final breakout group discussed the Sector-Specific Strategies section of the report. Across all sectors, stakeholders agreed, the report should highlight the need for institutional reforms and capacity building at the local/municipal level to better enable county-level scaling of programs and technologies. Community outreach and education will be critical for these measures to be successful and could include programs like mobile education trucks, local power company community engagement efforts, and inclusion of renewable energy technologies in primary school STEM curricula. It was noted that many rural counties, particularly those that border large urban areas, do not have the capacity or resources to deal with increased development in their areas. The report should therefore advocate for strategies to use statewide resources and coordination structures to help these communities align with urban and state-level programs and allow them leeway to implement the proposed changes in their regions. The group concluded that this section should include discussions about workforce training, fleet decarbonization, and agricultural reform, but should also manage expectations for how large of an impact on emissions certain technology improvement may have to not over-promise on certain approaches.

Stakeholder meeting

Stakeholders gathering in a hybrid environment to discuss the draft of the Roadmap Report.

After breakout groups completed their presentations, stakeholders reconvened to have an open forum discussion of the report’s final section, Partnering on the Road to Net-Zero. This group discussion focused on answering questions regarding proposed KPIs, how to make report recommendations actionable, and what support stakeholder organizations might need to continue working with TVA and UT on the Valley Pathways future. Stakeholders largely agreed with the proposed list of KPIs but cautioned that some of the categories might be too broad, and that KPIs such as “economic factors” would be more easily trackable if they were broken down into more specific topics like inflation, unemployment, urban movement, etc. Stakeholders were largely in agreement that the absence of a central liaison resource connecting communities, LPCs, authorities, and other stakeholders in the Valley poses a serious impediment to turning recommendations into action, and that establishing these frameworks, perhaps with the help of programs offered by the US Department of Energy, could prove useful.

The group ended by emphasizing that TVA should continue utilizing the contacts it has developed historically as well as the stakeholders who contributed to the Valley Pathways Study to keep up engagement as they implement decarbonization plans. This would provide a mechanism to understand how policies and actions are affecting the disparate communities and organizations across the Valley.

The meeting generated excellent discussion and some great ideas for the report. The project team looks forward to formalizing these ideas in the final draft of the Roadmap Report.

Upon finishing group discussions, stakeholders were invited to examine some of TVA’s electric vehicle fleet (including test rides in a new Ford F-150 Lightning), getting another close look at decarbonization in action in the Tennessee Valley.

Fully-electric Ford truck

Stakeholders got to enjoy test rides in a new fully-electric Ford F-150 Lightning.

Next Steps

There will be one more Stakeholder Working Group meeting that will be held in Knoxville on November 30, 2023. Before this meeting, the project team will focus on incorporating stakeholder feedback into the final draft of the Roadmap Report.

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 the 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.