TVA Board Approves Retirement of Allen Coal Plant in Memphis

Guest Blog | August 21, 2014 | Coal, Energy Efficiency, Energy Policy, Utilities
TVA's Allen Plant

Today the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors voted unanimously to retire all three coal-fired units of the Allen Fossil Plant (990 MW) in Memphis and approved replacement with a new 1,000 MW natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) plant. TVA plans to build the new 1,000 MW NGCC plant directly across from the current Allen site but did not confirm dates for its construction. The cost for the new combined cycle gas plant is estimated to be approximately $975 million.

In making this announcement, TVA stressed that a smaller natural gas plant will provide flexibility for later inclusion of renewable energy resources. TVA considered building a larger capacity natural gas plant, however, SACE and allies are working to ensure solar generation and low-cost wind become part of the replacement choices for Allen.

We applaud TVA for retiring the 55 year-old Allen facility instead of investing millions of dollars to continue operating it as a dirty coal plant. The Allen retirement announcement comes on top of significant TVA coal retirements over the past year, marking a continued move away from coal-fired power in the Tennessee Valley. At today’s meeting, the TVA Board voted to delegate authority to TVA CEO Bill Johnson to determine the exact retirement date of the Allen coal units, which must retire by December 31, 2018 under the terms of a 2011 Consent Decree with EPA and environmental groups. Ultimately, Allen’s coal units will be brought offline when the new NGCC plant becomes operational.

The 2011 Consent Decree was a response to work done during the 2011 TVA Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process, which led TVA on the road to significant coal retirements. As with the 2011 IRP, SACE is heavily involved in the current 2015 IRP process.  SACE staff serve on each of three dedicated 2015 IRP working groups. We anticipate additional coal plant retirements, beyond those contemplated in the 2011 Consent Decree, as part of the 2015 TVA IRP process. As TVA’s current 2015 IRP process continues, SACE is hopeful that TVA will announce significant investments in renewable energy generation resources when the final IRP is released in the Spring of 2015.

SACE, along with Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Tennessee Clean Water Network, Earthjustice and Environmental Integrity Project, submitted comments on TVA’s Draft Environmental Assessment for the Allen project calling for a smaller natural gas build to leave room for renewable generation growth in the Greater Memphis Area. (Prior to the TVA Board meeting, TVA released its Final Environmental Assessment and Finding of No Significant Impact for the Allen project.)

Retiring Allen is great news for Memphis, which continuously struggles with poor air quality and regularly shows up on national lists as one of the worst places to live for asthma sufferers. Additionally, the Allen site is home to over 417 million gallons of toxic coal ash that is polluting local groundwater supplies. By retiring the Allen plant, TVA will help to clean the air in Memphis and we hope it will take the necessary steps to clean up the waters around Allen as well.

“We hope today marks the beginning of a new clean energy future for Memphis,” said Dr. Stephen A. Smith, SACE Executive Director. “We welcome TVA’s decision to retire the old, inefficient Allen coal plant. Moving Memphis away from coal and along the path to positive energy choices is the best decision for both public health and the environment. We are happy to see that TVA has scaled back the size of its new natural gas plant and we remain hopeful that that TVA will take this opportunity to further reduce electricity costs and grow a local clean energy economy by investing in solar generation and low-cost wind in the Greater Memphis area. SACE is eager to work with TVA to ensure that renewable energy resources will be included in the replacement options for Allen.”

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