TVA Retiring Cumberland, Continues Transition to Clean Energy Future

Jan 10, 2023
  • Following a multi-year, transparent, and public process, TVA has made the decision to retire its Cumberland Fossil Plant and build a 1,450-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas facility by 2026.
  • TVA follows the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – a longstanding federal process – which ensures public participation and input and a robust review of all feasible options.
  • The construction of the combined-cycle natural gas facility – for replacement of one of the retiring Cumberland units – will deliver up to a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from the site and provide dispatchable reliable energy.
  • The two-unit Cumberland Fossil Plant will retire in two stages – with one unit by the end of 2026 and the second unit by the end of 2028.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.­­ – Following a multi-year, transparent, and public process, the Tennessee Valley Authority has made the decision to retire its Cumberland Fossil Plant and build a 1,450-megawatt combined-cycle natural gas facility by 2026.

“TVA is aggressively pursuing a sustainable, clean energy future while maintaining our commitment to providing affordable, reliable energy,” said Jeff Lyash, TVA president and CEO. “Energy security begins with the diversification of energy sources, and TVA has one of the nation’s most diverse, cleanest energy systems, including nuclear, solar, hydro, gas, and advanced technologies.

“This decision is based on a thorough environmental and public review process that ensures we meet the growing energy needs of this region.”

TVA follows the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – a longstanding federal process – which ensures public participation and input and a robust review of all feasible options.

TVA’s two-unit coal-fired Cumberland Fossil Plant will retire in two stages – with one unit by the end of 2026 and the second unit by the end of 2028. Before the first unit retires, TVA will build a 1,450-megawatt combined cycle plant on the Cumberland reservation to be in operation by 2026 to maintain reliable, uninterrupted power to our customers. Replacement generation for the second unit has been deferred to allow consideration for a broader range of replacement options. 

The construction of the combined-cycle natural gas plant at Cumberland will deliver up to a 60% reduction in carbon emissions from the site.

“Replacing retired generation with a natural gas plant is the best overall solution because it’s the only mature technology available today that can provide firm, dispatchable power by 2026 when the first Cumberland unit retires – dispatchable, meaning TVA can turn it off and on as the system requires the power,” Lyash said. “In addition, natural gas supports continued reduction of carbon emissions by enabling the integration of renewables, such as solar and battery storage, all while maintaining system reliability.” 

TVA’s industry-leading decarbonization initiatives include:

  • Achieving a 57% reduction in mass carbon emissions from the 2005 level – one of the nation’s largest reductions – while executing a path to an 80% reduction by 2035.
  • Adding 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.
  • Issuing the industry’s largest-ever – 5,000 megawatt – clean-energy request for proposals last June. 

The Cumberland Fossil Plant is the largest generating asset in the TVA coal fleet and is located in Stewart County, Tennessee. It powers approximately 1.1 million homes.  

“I’m proud of the Cumberland team,” said Travis Patterson, Cumberland Plant Manager. “We’ve done a tremendous job facing the challenges of increased environmental regulations and the demand for more flexible operation. We’ll continue to do great work, and Cumberland will remain an important part of the fleet until its slated retirement.” 

As TVA’s generation mix evolves, TVA is committed to supporting employees in the next step in their careers. 

“We have a detailed workforce plan in place to maintain coal plant expertise and provide opportunities for employees to evaluate options and prepare for next career steps,” said Jacinda Woodward, senior vice president, power operations. “The plan includes opportunities to transfer to other TVA locations where employee skillsets are needed, to gain skillsets for transitioning to a new job in TVA, or to identify external opportunities if that best meets employee needs.”  

TVA will continue to evaluate the coal fleet for retirement and replacement generation. Currently, Kingston Fossil Plant is undergoing an environmental review to determine the potential impacts of retirement and replacement. A draft Environmental Impact Statement is projected in Spring/Summer 2023. 

For more information, read the Record of Decision and other related documents found at tva.com/nepa.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power companies, serving nearly 10 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all its revenues from sales of electricity. In addition to operating and investing its revenues in its electric system, TVA provides flood control, navigation, and land management for the Tennessee River system, and assists local power companies and state and local governments with economic development and job creation. 

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Scott Brooks
Public Relations
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865-632-7453

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