On Jan. 20, 2021, President Joe Biden signed his first executive order, Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, which calls for a comprehensive approach for the federal government to transform itself—for fairness and equity to become more than ideals, to be principles embedded in the daily practices by which the government serves its people. The executive order also outlines a vision of equity that promotes fair and just treatment of all individuals, including those historically underserved, across a range of dimensions from race, gender, and sexual orientation to geography, income, and disability.
TVA, as a federal agency, submitted an Agency Equity Action Plan—a diverse Equity Team was established to facilitate the development and implementation of Executive Order 13985. Team membership was comprised of executive leadership and leaders of equity and community service-related work that occurs within and across the agency including our External Relations office, Human Resources, General Counsel, Economic Development, Commercial Energy Solutions, Supply Chain, and Federal Affairs.
Our plan has a few key highlights:
Since our inception in 1933, TVA has always worked to be a good neighbor and improve the quality of life in our region. TVA recently released its Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Report, highlighting the importance of building a culture that truly values inclusion with diversity at TVA. Inclusion with diversity is a journey where TVA began honing its focus on as early as 2013. In 2018, we initiated several new programs that target energy efficiency, community legal support and the expansion of technology to benefit communities and continue to incorporate improvements to these programs based on stakeholders and customer feedback. A few notable improvement and achievements specifically aimed at improving communities across the Tennessee Valley include:
Home Uplift: Initially piloted from 2018-2020, this program provides households at or below 200% of the federal poverty level with home energy improvements at no cost. TVA provides diagnostic energy audits to identify energy efficiency improvements to reduce energy costs and improve the comfort of homes. In 2021 alone, TVA improved the efficiency of 768 homes.
School Uplift: Launched in May 2021, School Uplift is a 12-month training program that helps public schools across the Valley reduce energy waste and improve learning environments. TVA is currently working with 100 new schools each year and partnering with state agencies to create additional opportunities for participating schools. The program provides low- and no-cost behavior change training to help schools reduce energy consumption, thus decarbonizing schools and enabling savings to be reinvested in educating students. School Uplift supports underserved communities by prioritizing grants for areas with high childhood poverty. Once a school has completed the training program, it can apply for additional financial grants to further improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs.
Community Centered Growth (CCG): Piloted in 2021, CCG helps local businesses in underserved communities make smart energy choices that save money and lead to decreased energy use, improved facilities, and reduced carbon emissions. TVA provides funding for facility improvements and manages the upgrade process for businesses in National Opportunity Zones—underserved areas identified by census data and factors like income and population.
Generating Justice Pro Bono Program: In 2021, TVA employees, in partnership with the TVA Office of the General Counsel (OGC), provided more than 80 lower-income individuals across the Valley with pro bono legal services, the value of which is estimated at $40,000. These services included hosting three pro bono virtual clinics, serving more than 20 individuals on wills and estate, family law, debt relief, housing/eviction support, and other legal issues. TVA OGC has also volunteered at eight monthly virtual legal clinics held in Shelby County, Tenn. As this program matures, TVA expects even more participation from employees and community partners.
As a public power company, TVA is committed to the communities we serve, and we strive to be a trusted neighbor and partner through corporate giving, employee volunteer efforts, and programs that provide support and assistance to those in need. In an effort to better fulfill that goal, TVA reorganized its external engagement model and created a Public and Community Engagement Team to be more deliberate in outreach to local-level, community-based organizations. This team is responsible for our outreach to nonprofits, civic interest groups and community organizations as well as for tracking and reporting community contributions across the enterprise.
Additionally, dedicated offices have been established in four distinct regions across TVA’s service territory that will coordinate with the Public and Community Engagement Team and ensure resources are available and programs are specifically tailored to meet the needs of the unique communities in each region. Given their local presence, these resources will be able to better identify potential new community partners, previously unaddressed needs within communities and programs to address those needs.