New Analysis Shows Tennessee Can Reduce Emissions 22 percent by 2020

Guest Blog | May 14, 2014 | Press Releases

Using existing policies and infrastructure, Volunteer State can meet future emissions standards

Contacts: Rhys Gerholdt, World Resources Institute, 202-729-7639, [email protected]
Angela Garrone, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 865-637-6055 ext 23, [email protected]


Knoxville, Tenn. (May 14, 2014) — A new analysis of Tennessee’s power sector finds the state has opportunities to make significant emissions reductions and put it on track to meet expected future emissions standards. The analysis, conducted by the World Resources Institute, shows that by taking better advantage of the state’s existing infrastructure, Tennessee can reduce its emissions 22 percent by 2020 (below 2011 emissions levels).

By achieving these reductions, Tennessee would be well-positioned to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) expected carbon pollution standards for the power sector. EPA proposed standards for new power plants in September 2013 and is expected to propose standards for existing power plants next month. These are important actions that are part of the national Climate Action Plan announced by President Obama last June.

“Tennessee has already seen a significant shift in the last ten years towards a more robust, low-carbon economy, and is on a good pathway to lowering its carbon emissions” said Michael Obeiter, a senior associate at WRI who led the analysis. “Our analysis shows the potential for even greater reductions that can spur innovation and create new opportunities for businesses.”

Following are ways that Tennessee can use existing infrastructure to help meet these reductions:

  • Increasing the state’s utilization of existing natural gas power plants to 75 percent of capacity would reduce emissions by 11 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;
  • Increasing efficiency of existing coal-fired power plants would reduce emissions by 2 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels;
  • Increasing the use of combined heat and power (CHP) at commercial and industrial facilities to achieve 25 percent of additional technical potential by 2030 would reduce emissions by 4 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.
  • Increasing the use of renewable energy at the same rate as the past decade (2.9 percent per year) would reduce emissions 9 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels; and
  • Committing to one percent annual energy savings through energy efficiency measures would reduce emissions 10 percent in 2020 compared to 2011 levels.

Since 2005, coal-fired generation in the state has decreased 40 percent. The Tennessee Valley Authority plans to retire two coal plants in the state by 2017, which would shut down 1,910 megawatts (MW), or 23 percent of the state’s coal capacity. TVA is evaluating the future of an additional 741 MW coal plant in the state. Renewables now make up 14 percent of the state’s electricity generation. “Improving renewable energy production and energy efficiency programs in Tennessee would be a win-win,” Obeiter said. “Measures that reduce emissions can also create jobs, raise demand for in-state manufacturing, and lower consumers’ annual electric bills in the future.”

WRI’s Tennessee fact sheet is available here:

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Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at