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TVA’s New Leader Looks to the Future with Memphis

APRIL 15, 2019 — TVA’s new President and CEO Jeffrey Lyash recently visited Memphis, making the Bluff City his first stop on a tour of the Tennessee Valley during his first 100 days on the job. Spending day three in Memphis, Lyash said the first six months of his tenure will be all about listening.

“I want to get a good understanding of what all of our constituency in the Valley deal with, so I am listening to our employees, customers, the communities we serve and elected officials,” Lyash said. “My experience over three decades is that if you listen and understand what your customers are dealing with and what your workforce is telling you, what becomes apparent is all the common ground. So, I want to focus on solutions that really matter to people.”

Jeff Lyash in Memphis

TVA's new CEO and President Jeff Lyash sits down with Memphis media to talk about energy, the environment and economic development in Memphis.

Reporters from The Daily Memphian, the Tri-State Defender and Memphis Business Journal jotted down notes as Lyash — a third-generation utility industry worker — started the conversation with his personal life. Married to a “Pennsylvania girl” from his hometown for 37 years, Lyash, who is also an engineer, spent a lot of time in North Carolina while working for Progress Energy. His two children and nine grandchildren are still there today.

“It’s nice to do a job I’ve always wanted to do and to do it close enough to the grandkids where we can jump into the car and get over to the mountains to see them,” he began.

The burning question about Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) — one of TVA’s largest customers now researching other power providers — also led the conversation. Lyash identified MLGW as the reason why Memphis topped his travel itinerary.

“I’ve spent some time talking to the CEO of MLGW and some elected officials, and Memphis has some important decisions to make — decisions that are rightfully yours. My interest is to make sure the decision makers in the community have all the information they need to make the best decision. I hope that we work through the current issues in Memphis, and I look forward to the day when we’re talking about what the future looks like, instead of the past because there is lots of opportunity,” he said.

Lyash went on to predict substantial and more rapid changes coming to the utility industry over the next 20 years. Stressing the value of an integrated energy network, Lyash said he believes technology is essential to the future, and companies that are committed to a long-term view and investment will harness technology to create a more integrated energy network.

Another priority Lyash discussed was environmental stewardship, which he defined as TVA’s priority but everyone’s responsibility. “We, all together, need to continue on the path to reducing the impact of energy and how we use it on the environment around us, but we’ve got to do it in a way that preserves our reliability, quality, the economic development advantage for the Valley, and the affordability for the people who live here.”

Specifically regarding environmental concerns around the now-decommissioned Allen Fossil Plant, Lyash said TVA is committed to doing the right thing.

“TVA has a responsibility, and we’re environmental stewards. The issues around coal combustion and its byproducts aren’t just TVA issues; they are issues across the United States. Plants like Allen Fossil were built to serve an important purpose during the time in which they were built, and they helped to improve people’s lives for decades. Now, we have to responsibly manage the coal ash, and we’re going to do that at Allen.”

Other topics included energy efficiency, the proposition to sell TVA’s transmission assets, TVA’s inclusion of minority communities, recent reductions to TVA’s debt, the future affordability of power and TVA’s diverse portfolio of power resources.

“Bill and the team did an excellent job. Now, my job will be to help raise the bar on operational excellence, getting world-class level performance from TVA’s assets, and to help TVA face upcoming decades of change,” Lyash concluded.

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