Home Science & TechEnvironment Fed Utility weighs coal plant switch options, climate impact | US News®

Fed Utility weighs coal plant switch options, climate impact | US News®

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By JONATHAN MATTISE Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The nation’s largest utility plans to close a massive coal-fired power plant but wants to replace it with natural gas. That would put the Tennessee Valley Federal Authority out of step with President Joe Biden’s administration’s goal of a carbon-free energy sector by 2035.

Utility officials argue that the natural gas move would help pave the way to more renewable sources and away from coal, while keeping rates low and the power grid reliable. But environmental groups warn the agency could miss the opportunity to move away from the carbon-producing fossil fuels that drive climate change.

The impending decision for the Cumberland fossil plant in Tennessee was a focal point at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s board meeting on Wednesday, where CEO Jeff Lyash argued the agency is attempting a balancing act. TVA has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2035, compared to 2005 levels.

Meanwhile, scientists have warned that missing Biden’s 2035 goal will only lead to more intense and frequent extreme weather events, as well as droughts, floods and wildfires. Teams of meteorologists around the world have predicted that there is almost a 50% chance that the Earth will temporarily reach a global warming temperature threshold that international agreements are trying to avoid in the next five years.

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In an interview with The Associated Press, Lyash reasoned that electricity use could double by 2050, due in part to a shift to electric technology aimed at reducing carbon emissions, including more electric vehicles, a technology that the utility company independent federal public has focused in recent years.

TVA is spearheading plans for proposed charging sites across its region and has set a goal of 200,000 electric vehicles in its area by 2028. It is engineering a large-scale transition to electricity for its own workforce fleet and has associate in economic contracting efforts. That led Ford to choose Tennessee for its electric truck facility in a package that also brought in a partner company’s battery plant.

Lyash has said that TVA will not be able to meet the 100% reduction target without technological advances in energy storage, carbon capture and small modular nuclear reactors, instead aiming for 80%. The utility has its own aspirational goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.

“That’s what we know we can run and deliver, without raising prices or affecting reliability,” Lyash said during the meeting at Young Harris College in Georgia. “It does not change our aspiration to achieve net zero and to go further faster. But we have to be transparent and honest: going further and faster will require research, development and deployment of technologies that we don’t have at a commercially competitive price.”

Environmental advocates have said that a switch to gas at the Cumberland plant, one of five remaining coal plants in TVA’s power system, which ranges from nuclear to hydroelectric generation, would leave it producing greenhouse gases. greenhouse effect for decades.

“To combat climate change and better serve its 10 million customers, TVA must cancel its gas plans and instead take this opportunity to become a national leader in the clean energy transition by investing in energy options. renewable, such as solar energy, wind energy. and battery storage, which are affordable, effective and available right now,” said Eric Hilt of the Southern Environmental Law Center, adding that prices for those renewable sources are going down.

TVA officials have said their preferred option would be natural gas-fired in Cumberland. Another of the alternatives in his proposal focuses on solar energy with storage. In-person open houses to discuss options are scheduled for May 17-18, as the agency contemplates a final decision in the coming months.

The utility already has plans to add 10,000 megawatts of solar power to its system by 2035. It has partnered on projects with several prominent industrial clients who want their operations tied to renewable energy.

Lyash said supply chain issues have helped create hiccups of late. Problems with the availability of solar panels have caused delays of up to a year in some TVA projects, Lyash said.

TVA Powers provides electricity to local power companies serving 10 million people in Tennessee and parts of the six surrounding states.

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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