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TVA increasing solar and nuclear
TVA Increasing Solar, Nuclear.jpg
TVA president and CEO Jeffrey Lyash addresses the Rotary Club of McMinnville on Thursday at Central Church of Christ. Lyash emphasized TVA’s commitment to provide clean, reliable and affordable power to its customers in Tennessee and six surrounding states. - photo by Chris Simones

TVA president and CEO Jeffery Lyash told Rotary Club of McMinnville members that the utility is firmly committed to providing clean, reliable power now and in the future.

“Our generating portfolio is already one of the most diverse and cleanest in the nation,” Lyash said. “It’s because of our strong mix of nuclear power, hydroelectric power, wind, solar, with some gas and coal to make sure we’re reliable. It’s the cleanest power system in the Southeast U.S. today.”

Before coming to TVA, Lyash served as top executive at Ontario Power Generation where he led a major utility that phased out all coal generation and now relies on water, solar and nuclear power. 

That system is now 99% free of greenhouse gas emissions.

“As an engineer, in my mind, lower carbon emissions is better,” Lyash told Rotarians last Thursday. “It reduces risk and it helps the environment. If we can do that without increasing the customer’s price then that’s what we should do.”

The nation’s biggest public power company, TVA provides power to Tennessee and six surrounding

states covering 80,000 square miles and serving 10 million people. 

“If you compare us to the 2005 benchmark, this year we have achieved a 60% reduction in carbon emissions. We have plans to get that to 70% in 2030 and 80% by 2040,” Lyash stated. “Today, 62% of all the energy we produce is greenhouse gas free.”

Lyash stressed TVA is dependable as well as clean.

“The power is consistently delivered with 99.999% reliability. We’ve hit that number for the past 20 years which is key to attracting business and industry to the region.”

TVA’s residential rates are lower than 70% of the country and industrial rates are lower than 90% of the country. Lyash informed Rotarians that solar and nuclear production will increase in the next few years.

“Now is the time to move into solar. Sometimes people ask me why we didn’t do it sooner and it’s because the price was too high. The price is down now to where it’s cost effective,” said Lyash. “The TVA is planning to add solar on an industrial scale for companies such as Amazon, GM and Facebook very soon.”

“Beyond that we’re also exploring the possibility of the next generation of nuclear, small modular reactors. We are the only utility in the country who has site permit to build a small nuclear reactor and that’s on the Clinch River next to Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Our goal is to have the top nuclear fleet by 2025.”

Both Caney Fork and McMinnville Electric are long-term partners with TVA and both have signed 20-year partnership agreements with the provider.

The nearest TVA dam to McMinnville is Great Falls Dam at Rock Island which the TVA purchased from the Tennessee Electric Power Corporation in 1939. Construction on the dam started in 1915 and the dam began generating power in 1917.