The idea that an unregulated free market will result in the most affordable energy prices with the best reliability is a misguided notion.
That’s according to Tennessee Valley Authority president and CEO Jeff Lyash, who was a call-in guest Tuesday to a press conference organized by County Executive Jimmy Haley.
You don’t have to look any further than the lingering problems in California, and most recently the massive power outages in Texas this winter, to see there are flaws in that reasoning, Lyash said.
“I think 25 years ago the notion was that a free market would drive the lowest prices,” said Lyash. “But with something as central to our lives as energy, leaving that to a market with a short-term focus isn’t wise. Year after year, TVA is the most reliable system in the country. We serve 10 million people and evaluate what’s best in the short term and long term. The public power model is a strategic advantage.”
TVA is owned by the federal government and was established by an act of Congress under FDR in 1933.
Lyash said affordable power from TVA is one of the factors which makes Tennessee so attractive to major industries. TVA’s industrial power rate is lower than 93% of the nation and residential power offered through McMinnville Electric System and Caney Fork Electric Cooperative is lower than 80% of the nation, Lyash said.
He pointed out TVA lowered its rates by 2.5% during the pandemic as a way to help residents and the business community. He said TVA was founded nearly nine decades ago on the premise that reliable, affordable energy is the key to economic growth.
Mitigating climate change and reducing carbon emissions is a focal point for the energy industry and Lyash said TVA is implementing plans to greatly reduce greenhouse gases. He said TVA’s goal is to be at net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
The shift to electric vehicles is going to require a public and private investment, Lyash said. One main thing needed to give the transition velocity is the availability of rapid charging stations.
The government will likely need to kick start this charging station program, Lyash said, but private companies will need to contribute too. He indicated TVA has had discussions with Pilot Flying J about adding infrastructure such as charging stations to its locations.
“This is a really important topic,” Lyash said. “We need to have high-voltage DC chargers every 50 miles along major thoroughfares to eliminate range anxiety.”
TVA provides power in parts of seven Southern states and is the country’s third largest electricity generator.