SEPTEMBER 29, 2020 — TVA is helping businesses across seven states position for longevity in the midst of the COVID-induced recession. Now more than ever, efficiency and viability of manufacturers, retailers and wholesale vendors is hinging upon a strong balance sheet and the continued reduction of carbon emissions.
In an effort to give Valley companies a competitive edge and attract more job creators to the region, TVA is on track to reduce its average carbon emissions by about 60 percent from 2005 levels by the end of 2020 and by about 70 percent by the end of 2030. In fiscal year 2019, 54 percent of TVA's energy supply came from carbon-free sources.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, TVA has helped create or retain more than 18,300 Valley jobs through at least 75 new economic development projects. The agreements have attracted an estimated $2.8 billion in capital investment to the region.
TVA’s ability to supply corporations with 100 percent renewable power led to the August announcement of a new $800 million Facebook data center employing 100 people in Gallatin, Tennessee. And two years earlier, TVA’s green-power promise helped secure another 100-job, $750 million Facebook data center that is currently being constructed in Huntsville, Alabama.
While corporations like Facebook, Amazon and Volkswagen are some of the well-known job creators that have located operations inside TVA’s service territory, demand for low-cost, carbon-free power extends well beyond Big Tech and auto manufacturing.
“It’s one of the first questions companies are asking now. They want carbon-free power because their customers are demanding it from them,” said TVA Senior Program Manager for Climate Policy Karen Utt. “These businesses are relocating to regions that can supply clean energy for the long haul and we’re positioning our generation mix accordingly.”
TVA has reduced emissions by constructing new, lower-emitting natural gas plants and by increasing its carbon-free nuclear capacity by more than 1,600 megawatts. The agency has also returned more than 453 megawatts of conventional green power to its 109-unit hydropower fleet—originally rated for 3,500 megawatts of generation.
According to Utt, the sprint toward green power is more than a short-term trend. Publicly traded companies are now reporting carbon emission numbers along with earnings as shareholder pressure mounts for carbon friendly operations and products. Companies like Wal-Mart, Pepsi-Cola and Dell require all supply-chain vendors to report the amount of Scope-1 direct emissions they release and the indirect, Scope-2 carbon emissions from their end-use consumption of electricity, heat, steam and chilled water.
“We had a chemical company shut down an entire line during the 2008-09 recession because of low demand,” Utt said. “This company also allocated production of its various plants based on carbon performance and cost.”
“By having a lower carbon number at competitive rates, that line was able to return to service,” Utt continued. “They could have chosen to start back up in Canada or anywhere around the globe, but because we could guarantee continued carbon performance, they chose to stay, and that helped retain jobs and strengthen the local economy.”
On average, TVA’s generation mix is significantly cleaner when peak-usage falls. During these daily windows of lower-load conditions, TVA’s carbon-free units are able carry a greater portion of the Valley’s system demand. When companies choose to bolster operations during these lower-load hours, their customer-specific carbon-emission rate falls well below TVA’s annual average.
To better support customer’s formal carbon accounting and performance goals, TVA provides specific CO2 pounds-per-megawatt-hour emission rates for all direct-serve customers and LPC customers who consume more than five megawatts of power. The report allows customers to calculate their Scope-2 greenhouse gas emissions and remain in compliance as a vendor for companies listed on the major stock exchanges.
In 2019, TVA’s system carbon-emission rate was 28 percent below the Environmental Protection Agency’s e-GRID regional average, and 22 percent below the national average, respectively. For customers who wish to go 100 percent green, TVA offers additional renewable program opportunities such as Green Switch, Dispersed Power Production, Green Flex and Green Invest.
TVA also owns and purchases renewable power that includes wind from the Midwest as well as solar. Each renewable megawatt purchased or owned is tagged with an exclusive renewable energy certificate (REC), which represents the right to claim one megawatt hour of renewable power on the nation’s grid.
TVA either sells RECs to a specific customer or retires them to help lower the agency’s overall carbon footprint. RECS are products that allow customers to operate in a carbon-free environment while TVA continues to restructure its generation portfolio with more carbon-free sources.
In the last five years, TVA has helped attract $44.6 billion in capital investment to the region, while creating or retaining more than 350,000 Valley jobs. Despite the current downturn to the nation’s economy, TVA is committed to sustaining a healthy environment through low-carbon generation, which continues to provide a competitive edge to the region’s job creators.