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Howard.H.Baker Jr Center for Public Policy Board Building

Valley Pathways Study Stakeholder Working Group Meeting 6

November 30, 2023

TVA and the UT Baker School for Public Policy and Public Affairs were pleased to welcome our Valley Pathways Study stakeholders to the sixth meeting of the Stakeholder Working Group on November 30, held at the University of Tennessee Baker School’s Toyota Auditorium in downtown Knoxville. Eighteen stakeholders attended the meeting (eleven in person and seven virtually) to discuss the final draft of the report as well to hear from stakeholders about future work that may support the Valley’s path towards decarbonization. The meeting was also attended by representatives from TVA and the Baker School, as well as consultants on the project team and several guest speakers.

Laura Duncan, Senior Project Manager at TVA and the lead of the Valley Pathways Study, welcomed the group and introduced Michael McCall, who recently took over for Rebecca Tolene as VP of Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer at TVA (Rebecca, meanwhile, has taken on a new role as Vice President, Chief of Staff, reporting to David Fountain, Executive Vice President and General Counsel). Laura covered the project’s key recent accomplishments, including finalizing the draft report, as well as further details on TVA’s partnership with the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) pilot projects in the Valley. Participating cities in these pilot projects include Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Johnson City. These partnerships will provide future opportunities for TVA to engage in the Valley’s decarbonization journey.

Laura then outlined the VPS’ participation in the US EPA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant (CPRG) programs, with $3 million each distributed to 6 of the Valley’s 7 states for the development of Priority Action Plans and a competitive process for electrification and energy efficiency programs across the Valley. TVA has a dedicated representative on Tennessee’s CPRG executive steering committee, along with several VPS stakeholders, and continues to explore regional synergies between VPS and CPRG.

Since the fifth stakeholder meeting (held virtually in September), stakeholder feedback was collected and incorporated into the final draft of the Preliminary Findings Report. Over 150 comments were received from stakeholders during that period, over two-thirds of which elicited minor edits, while the remaining one-third of comments involved more extensive consideration before incorporating changes into the report. After reviewing these comments, key next steps for the project include finalizing incorporation of stakeholder feedback, adding recommended case studies, and finishing the Study appendices that cover report methodology and data sources. After covering the work that has been done since the last stakeholder working group meeting, the project team reviewed the schedule of the project moving forward, highlighting that the report would be released to the Stakeholder Working Group at the end of December or in early January and that the study findings would likely be presented to the TVA Board in February 2024.

After covering the VPS’ upcoming schedule, the project team delivered the preliminary report’s findings:

  • In the transportation sector, near total electrification of the Valley’s light-duty vehicle fleets was identified as a critical lever for the Valley, with low-carbon fuels serving a similarly important role for heavy-duty vehicles as well as industrial processes.
  • Energy efficiency measures have a limited effect on electric-load reductions but do drive improvements in reliability and affordability.
  • In terms of electricity demand, it is anticipated that overall load size will double, while introduction of more renewable energy technologies will reduce associated emissions by half by 2050.
  • Organic waste streams remain a difficult-to-abate sector; artificial carbon capture and storage technologies will likely be needed to augment forests’ natural carbon sink capabilities to truly reach “Net Zero.”
  • The report concluded that electric vehicles are the single largest greenhouse gas reduction opportunity in the Valley, although low-carbon fuels, energy efficiency measures, education, and community planning measures will also be critical for the Valley to decarbonize and thrive in the upcoming decades.

Candy Kelly, Senior Manager for Resource Strategy at TVA, presenting updates on TVA’s IRP

Candy Kelly, Senior Manager for Resource Strategy at TVA, presenting updates on TVA’s IRP

Candy Kelly, Senior Manager for Resource Strategy at TVA, next provided an update on TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) which has been progressing concurrently with the VPS. The IRP team has dedicated fall and winter of 2023-2024 to developing scenario forecasts, running model cases, and performing environmental studies. The team’s current plan is to publish the draft IRP in spring 2024 with the final draft set to be complete by summer 2024. In the meantime, the IRP team has continued holding working group meetings to align on scenarios and review forecasts as well as model results. The group also began collaborating with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in September to align on cost assumptions and greenhouse gas lifecycle analysis. The scenarios and strategies chosen for the IRP were then reviewed and questions were answered regarding comparisons between the scenarios chosen for the IRP and those chosen for VPS.

Danielle Wilmot, Associate Director at Guidehouse, moderated the next section of the meeting, which included short presentations by stakeholders and guest speakers on decarbonization initiatives they have been involved in across the Valley.

  • Trish Savage of Ford Motor Company kicked off the presentations by discussing Ford’s carbon reduction strategies, which include goals such as using 100% carbon neutral electricity by 2035 and total carbon neutrality by 2050, as well as the BlueOval City campus that is being constructed in Tennessee. This campus uses cutting edge technologies such as geothermal, direct fired gas equipment, and other strategies that have resulted in an overall 75% reduction in direct carbon footprint of the design when compared to a traditional production plant. BlueOval City will be focused on producing electric trucks in the Valley.
  • Next, TVA’s Chris Chandler, Senior Counsel, and Casey Norris, Senior Manager, presented TVA’s Federal Funding Project Management Office (FFPMO), which was established in March 2023 to secure federal funding for the Valley. The goal of the FFPMO is to help TVA and Valley stakeholders succeed in capturing federal funding and advancing energy capabilities, with the ultimate goal of bringing capital and opportunities into the Valley. The main programs that TVA is pursuing are the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), two bills that offer a total of almost $1.6 trillion nation-wide in funding for infrastructure, new programs, and decarbonization initiatives. TVA is eligible for over 400 IRA and BIL funding opportunities that are relevant to TVA’s mission and Valley stakeholders and has shortlisted 149 opportunities across all business units and with Valley partners. To assist Valley stakeholders in applying for federal funding, TVA’s FFPMO has also been developing materials to share (including best practices), knowledge sharing on community benefit plans, writing letters of support, and launching training programs across the Valley. TVA finished their presentation by providing a Milestone Report on their Electric School Bus Initiative, which used almost $60 million in BIL funds to bring 153 electric school buses into the TVA service area, with positive feedback on the program having been received so far.

Ribbon cutting event at Founders Park

Opening of the Johnson City Smart Pole Initiative

  • Mark Eades, Chief Engineering and Facilities Officer at BrightRidge, next presented on Johnson City’s Lighting Pilot Program, which sought to bring smart lighting to central parts of Johnson City’s downtown area. BrightRidge worked in cooperation with TVA to coordinate design and exchange information between project stakeholders and succeeded in installing smart poles across Johnson City, which provide public wi-fi, smart lighting, environmental monitoring, and crime prevention applications.
  • Next up, Kevin Hensley of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation and Dr. Patrick Keyser of the UT Center for Native Grasslands Management discussed grassland usage in the Valley and how local beef production is potentially vital to grassland carbon storage. The pair discussed a recent paper that found that improved grazing management, fertilization, and other agriculture changes lead to increased soil carbon sequestration, indicating that cattle-related emissions could go down without significantly reducing stock sizes, which could have significant implications for Valley cattle farmers.
  • Next, Keeton Ross from Holocene introduced Holocene’s direct air capture projects, which focus on a relatively unexplored area of direct air capture (DAC) that uses a liquid, low-temperature, thermochemical approach to carbon capture. The DAC industry is projected to pull 7 billion tonnes of emissions out of the atmosphere by 2050 and represents another important technology that could be useful along the decarbonization journey.
  • Molly Cripps of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) then presented on state-level initiatives, including education, outreach, technical assistance, and funding and financing opportunities for various energy related programs. TDEC is primarily funded through the DoE and has implemented a variety of programs in recent years, including Drive Electric Tennessee, the Charging Fueling and Infrastructure Program, the Grid Resilience Formula Grant Program, IRA Home Energy Rebate Programs, and the Solar for All Competition. TDEC has also recently applied for the IRA’s Climate Pollution Reduction Grant Program (CPRG). These programs have allowed TDEC to engage with stakeholders across the Valley, assisting local communities while also informing TDEC strategies via feedback they have received.
  • Leigh Huffman of the Memphis-Shelby County Division of Planning and Development next presented on local climate action and introduced the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability and Resilience (OSR). The OSR supports the Memphis Area Climate Plan, which provides a framework for achieving significant emissions reductions through various initiatives, including improving building energy efficiency, electrifying municipal fleets, and coordinating between all stakeholders in the region.
  • Finally, Maggie Davis of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) concluded the presentations, by introducing a study that ORNL had recently published on DAC and the potential for biomass. These studies illustrate the profound impact that ORNL has had and continues to have on providing data that assists decision making in the Valley’s transition.

After finishing the presentations by stakeholders and guests, Dr. Charles Sims, Director of the Energy and Environment Program at the UT Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs, requested feedback from stakeholders on questions such as, “What would you like to add to the report?” and “What further questions need to be answered?” General feedback was positive, noting that the report was a technically difficult study that may require round-table discussions with local government, community representatives, and other entities to ensure that the VPS results are truly absorbed into community plans. Further actions that were suggested included a survey to Valley customers to identify electric vehicle adoption barriers and the need for the VPS team to continue coordinating decision makers with research, largely by providing these researchers with a podium to disseminate their findings. 

Michael McCall, VP of Environment and Sustainability Officer at TVA, delivering the meeting’s closing remarks

Michael McCall, VP of Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer at TVA, delivering the meeting’s closing remarks

Michael McCall, VP of Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer at TVA, then delivered the closing remarks and acknowledged the role the UT Baker School in providing a forum for people to discuss and understand decarbonization positions with an end goal of achieving consensus. He noted that decarbonization is a big topic that will require ongoing engagement, but it also offers an exciting opportunity for the Valley and its residents going forward.

This meeting was the last for the VPS Stakeholder Working Group – at least for 2023. The TVA team would like to acknowledge all of the Stakeholders and guests who participated and who were indispensable in the creation of the Valley Pathways Study Preliminary Findings Report. The team is continuing discussions about the future of the Stakeholder Working Group and will announce next steps in 2024.

Despite this being the last meeting of 2023, 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. 

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.