Is TVA Causing a Solar [Market] Eclipse?

Stephen Smith | August 18, 2017 | Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Solar, Utilities
TenneSEIA, the Tennessee Solar Energy Industries Association, issued a press release yesterday about TVA’s decision to continue restricting the Green Power Providers program.  I agree with their President, Matt Beasley: “this decision indicates a genuine lack of commitment by TVA to its own program.”  The reality is that TVA is withdrawing support for solar power and, much like the solar eclipse we’ll all see on Monday, TVA is blocking the sun.

SACE supported the recommendation TenneSEIA made earlier this year for how TVA could boost participation in its Green Power Providers (GPP) program by raising the individual size limit from 50 kW to 200 kW. This adjustment would allow more businesses the option of going solar on their own commercial properties.

TVA’s priority seems to be primarily “utility scale” systems and projects that they do in partnership with local power companies. While we support these efforts, we want to see all solar market segments functioning in the TVA region – residential, commercial (small and medium), as well as utility-scale. TVA does also offer a Distributed Solar Solutions program designed for larger commercial solar installations (up to 2MW), but the conditions imposed on that program effectively leave many medium-sized businesses excluded by TVA. The TenneSEIA proposal would have extended the simplified approach of the Green Power Providers program to the medium-scale solar installations that appeal to firms of that size.

However, TVA summarily rejected the proposal, even though it would have no impact on TVA’s budget, because they limit the annual total enrollment for GPP at 10MW – a cap they have not hit since 2015.

At the end of 2016, TVA had just over 100 MW of solar on its system in Tennessee.  Georgia has five times that, North Carolina currently boasts more than ten times that amount, and both those states have significant plans to continue scaling-up.  These states demonstrate the potential for solar energy across the region, and yet TVA seems to be adopting a strategy of doing as little as Tennesseans will let them get away with.

The sad fact is that TVA customers are held hostage to the programs TVA unilaterally decides to implement.  If you’re in TVA’s territory, your local power company doesn’t even have the authority to afford you solar options beyond what TVA offers.  There really is no consumer choice in this arena – but there could be.

For more than 30 years, SACE has been committed to promoting clean energy opportunities in the southeast.  I want to help you fight for your right to choose clean energy.  If you agree that enough is enough and it’s time to really transform energy choice, please sign this petition so we can build a movement to bring more clean, solar energy to Tennessee.


Stephen Smith
Dr. Stephen A. Smith has over 35 years of experience affecting positive change for the environment. Since 1993, Dr. Smith has led the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) as…
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