Keeping Tabs on Local Carbon

A new partnership aims to help Tennessee Valley communities both better understand and act on their carbon emissions for the good of our environment and the well-being of the people.

APRIL 22, 2021 — TVA and local power companies are helping local communities join a growing network of carbon-conscious local and regional governments committed to sustainability. By identifying emissions levels and the drivers behind them, Valley communities can become more strategic in their policy efforts to attract clean energy jobs and other investments.  

Partnering with the international organization ICLEI, “Local Governments for Sustainability,” TVA is piloting an effort with 10 LPCs and Valley communities in a pilot program to drive action on carbon performance and influence sustainability policy through the use of community carbon accounting. The pilot — part of a global ICLEI effort which includes more than 100 participating countries and 1,750 communities — is expected to improve the environment over the long-term while courting jobs and new manufacturing industries into participating regions.

The program uses community carbon accounting, a process that tracks and reports how much carbon is being emitted within a designated geographic area, in this case the local power company (LPC) service area, and by whom. For example, communities will learn how to account for the carbon emissions associated with their water and wastewater treatment and local transportation. This information can provide the LPCs with valuable knowledge about electrification and energy efficiency opportunities to grow local load and improve the economic and environmental competitiveness of their community. The community accounting effort is different from most carbon reporting, which is typically done at the corporate level and addresses the operations  of a specific company or business.

“Community carbon accounting drills down to what matters most to a local community level," says TVA Senior Program Manager for Climate Policy, Karen Utt. "It's designed to take a more holistic look at an area’s emissions to help policymakers make cost-effective policy decisions to produce good-paying, sustainable jobs and local economic growth

According to Utt, decarbonization of the Valley will mean CO2 competitive, cost-effective electrification of fossil fuel sources across economic sectors.  

“This means electricity made by people you know right here, keeping hard-earned Valley dollars circulating right here at home. This community carbon accounting pilot will begin to provide TVA and the LPCs with data that will help us work in partnership with local government and community stakeholders to make life better in the Valley,” Utt says.

Better Local Policy Decisions

When completed, the LPCs’ carbon reports will provide insight on how to best invest public money or attract private money into their community in order to yield positive results.

“TVA expects this program to benefit local economies as well as the environment,” said Utt. “Localized carbon reports can help attract new jobs and manufacturing industries into the Tennessee Valley by showing the amount of clean and renewable energy in the area and offering a greener, more competitive option for prospective industries.”

Local power companies partnering with TVA in the program’s pilot phase include Florence Utilities Department (Ala.), Nashville Electric Service (Tennessee), Knoxville Utilities Board (Tenn.), Memphis Light, Gas, and Water (Tenn.), and BrightRidge (Johnson City, Tenn.).

“TVA is proud to partner with these LPCs, and others in the future, in helping to connect Valley communities with a global effort to bring climate-impact information to the local level,” says Rebecca Tolene, TVA vice president of Environment and Chief Sustainability Officer. “Community carbon accounting is a way to show how local decisions impact their carbon footprint and the environment.”

In expectation of benefiting not only the LPCs but local governments as well, TVA hopes that each local city and county in these service territories will have the opportunity to see the positive impacts they can have on the environment over time. Information gleaned from the pilot project could result in a positive economic impact through the focus on sustainability and attracting companies, new manufacturing industries and more jobs.

“KUB works in close partnership with the City of Knoxville on sustainability initiatives and is committed to supporting the City’s emissions reduction goals,” says Gabe Bolas, KUB President and CEO. “TVA’s carbon accounting project is helping us learn more about the City’s community greenhouse gas inventories and how we can measure the positive impacts of actions like our purchase of 502 megawatts of solar power through TVA’s Green Invest program.”

Working towards long term goals, the local power companies partnering with TVA in this effort are building their sustainability stories.

“The City of Florence Utilities is committed to addressing its contribution to carbon emissions and adding to our sustainability story,” says Mary McDuffa, Florence Utilities Electricity Department Manager. “We look forward to sharing the collected information from this pilot program and working with the local governments, customers, and stakeholders in Lauderdale County to create a more sustainable community for us all. This program aligns with our mission of being good stewards of the environment and our communities’ resources and safeguarding those resources for generations to come.”

TVA is excited to see the positive impact this pilot will have on not only the Tennessee Valley but the environment as a whole all work towards a more clean and sustainable Earth.