WASHINGTON— More than 200 energy justice, racial justice, faith and youth organizations are calling on President Joe Biden’s four nominees to the Tennessee Valley Authority board of directors to commit to transitioning the utility to 100% renewable and just energy by 2030. TVA is the nation’s largest public power provider.
The groups sent a letter today to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which will hold a hearing on the nominations ahead of a full Senate vote. Today’s letter notes that phasing out TVA’s carbon pollution is crucial to the president’s goal of decarbonizing the entire utility sector by 2035.
“TVA is at a critical juncture, and new board members can shift the utility from its current focus on fossil fuels toward a just energy future,” said Gaby Sarri-Tobar, an energy justice campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Reform at TVA is long overdue as the climate emergency and growing energy burden take a tremendous toll on Valley communities. President Biden took a bold stand on decarbonizing the electricity sector, and his board picks must do the same by pledging to lead TVA’s just transition to 100% renewable energy by 2030.”
President Biden nominated Beth Geer, Robert Klein, Kimberly Lewis and Michelle Moore to the TVA board in April. The four nominees bring experience in community-based solar projects, renewable energy and labor to a board on which fossil fuel and corporate interests have been over-represented. The board will make critical decisions on TVA’s energy trajectory for the next two decades, including where priority is placed in renewable energy development.
“As the nation’s largest public power provider, TVA is the right utility to lead the nation in meeting the Biden administration’s goal to decarbonize our electricity sector,” said Maggie Shober, director of utility reform at Southern Alliance for Clean Energy. “In order to provide such leadership, it is critical that TVA’s board be made up of directors that understand the importance of a swift and just transition to clean energy and are able to push the utility’s leadership to lay out a plan to zero carbon by 2030.”
TVA CEO and President Jeff J. Lyash recently expressed his aspiration to decarbonize TVA by 2050, but he did not comprehensively define the path by which TVA will achieve this. The timeline is woefully insufficient for addressing the climate emergency and growing energy insecurity, groups say. Like other major utilities, TVA still depends heavily on fossil fuels; even with this new goal, the utility will rely on false solutions like fracked gas and nuclear power that will worsen climate injustice in the Tennessee Valley.
“TVA was an FDR New Deal creation founded during the Great Depression to combat an economic crisis and ensure everyone had access to electricity. Today, amidst both an economic and climate crisis, a Green New Deal is imperative to our survival,” said Lauren Maunus, Sunrise Movement advocacy director. “Congress must heed the demands of science and justice and confirm TVA board members who will usher in a swift and just transition to renewable energy for the region and country.”
“Building a more resilient and equitable energy system means investing in community-based solutions,” said Reverend Michael Malcom, executive director of People’s Justice Council. “TVA is well positioned to support these solutions within its public power structure, yet the agency is heavily dependent on harmful fossil fuels that directly contribute to energy violence and economic poverty experienced by Black and other communities of color. To address the Southeast’s rising energy burden and advance a more just future for all TVA customers, new board members must champion energy democracy in the Valley.”
TVA generates electricity for more than 10 million customers in Tennessee, northern Alabama, northeastern Mississippi, southwestern Kentucky, and portions of northern Georgia, western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia. Currently just 3% of TVA’s energy supply comes from solar and wind. The utility plans to emit more than 34 million tons of carbon dioxide a year by 2038, according to its own projections.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Since 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has worked to promote responsible and equitable energy choices to ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at www.cleanenergy.org.
Sunrise is a movement of young people uniting to stop the climate crisis. We are building an army of young people to break the hold of oil and gas CEOs on our politics and elect leaders who will protect the health and wellbeing of all people, not just a wealthy few.
The People’s Justice Council is a faith-based group of public theologians from various faith traditions who operate at the intersectionality of justice through interdisciplinary methods. PJC provides tools and access to build power from the grassroots up for justice at the policy level.