Coal is being phased out, but current plans do not include phasing in more renewable, cleaner energy sources.
Speak up about it.
When it comes down to staying alive, it’s all about energy. Without energy, we cease to exist. Our sun star is the prime energy source enabling life on this planet. It empowers plants to grow, wind to blow and has provided us energy-rich coal, natural gas and oil.
Even radioactive uranium used for nuclear power came from exploding supernovae in our solar system as Earth and other planets were forming. Another major source of energy is moving water. Water didn’t come to Earth directly from the sun. It was likely locked up in our basic rocks, supplemented by asteroids crashing into Earth with their watery payload. Still, solar energy causes water to move through the plants to produce food. It also powers the water cycle for cloud-making and rain.
Comfort-seeking humans have cleverly figured out how to use indirect solar energy sources. Grown men (women, too) throw hissy fits if the power goes off or the price of gas causes any inconvenience.
Unfortunately, those same energy sources are now damaging the very ecosystem from whence they came. The burning of fossil fuels and the release of nuclear radiation to produce electricity, move our vehicles, and manufacture our amenities is fouling our nest. That makes it harder to breathe clean air, drink pure water, eat healthy food and avoid disease. It’s time for a new plan.
Tennessee Valley Authority is creating a new Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to set power generating guidelines for the future. TVA generates electricity and sends it to distributors who then deliver it to you.
Right now, TVA generates electricity using water (11 percent), coal (36 percent), nuclear (20 percent), and gas (24 percent). About 6 percent is purchased from other providers. Renewables, such as solar and wind, plus energy efficiency and energy demand make up only 3 percent of the entire mix.
Within that pitifully low number lies opportunity to rethink how energy is generated. Yet TVA seems reluctant to seriously increase use of renewables and efficiency even though they are the cheapest and quickest to put in place.
Instead, TVA has proffered suggestions to increase the percentage of nuclear to 41 percent as coal is reduced to 29 percent. That continues to lock TVA into business as usual, when the agency’s continued existence requires change.
Consider these facts: First, even though several coal-fired power plant units are being closed, TVA has more capacity than it needs to meet demand.
Second, the Chattanooga region has the most risk from nuclear radiation and its radioactive waste legacy in the Tennessee Valley. Further, none of the IRP scenarios currently being considered include thinking about safety or health of citizens who must bear the impacts of dirty air, water, soil, and radiation.
Here’s a better way: Aim for an IRP vision with 35 percent renewables. Begin a transition phasing out coal and nuclear generation in favor of solar, wind, and energy efficiency. TVA has already committed to closing 18 of their coal-fired units (2,728 megawatts). Take advantage of Clean Line Energy Partners, the business establishing transmission lines to bring 3500 megawatts of wind power to TVA. Move away from nuclear.
In light of Fukushima Daichi nuclear meltdowns with 150,000 Japanese permanently evacuated from their homes and increased cancer rates, close accident-prone Browns Ferry Reactor 1(1100 Megawatts).
Do not relicense Sequoyah. Instead, quadruple energy efficiency programs through distributors. Buy into solar. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that 92 percent of all new electrical generation in Tennessee in 2013 came from solar installations. Increase solar incentives to support the burgeoning Tennessee solar industry.
Demand that TVA invest in a sustaining and safe future for the Valley. It can be done.