TVA to reshape agreements with local power companies, approves six flexibility principles

During its February 12 meeting, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors approved six flexibility principles that may soon grant local power companies the ability to buy or generate power on their own.

These principles will grant more flexibility to the 154 municipalities and power cooperatives that purchase TVA’s power and sign long-term agreements with the utility. Under these principles, the organizations will have the right to buy or generate up to 5 percent of their power (or 1 megawatt for small distributors) from sources other than TVA.

“This is certainly significant in that we’ve never done this before,” said TVA President Jeff Lyash. “But we recognize that the industry is changing with technology and customer demands to both keep electric rates low while moving to cleaner energy sources.”

According to TVA, the board adopted the following six principles

  1. Energy resource sites must be documented, metered, operated, and connected in a manner consistent with applicable TVA standards.
  2. Valley Partner energy resources will either displace demand and energy usage that TVA would have otherwise charged to the Valley Partner under the prevailing wholesale power rate structure; or, Valley Partner energy resources will be treated in accordance with an economically equivalent wholesale crediting mechanism.
  3. Each Valley Partner may deploy energy resources in an aggregated capacity amount not to exceed the greater of (1) 5% of that Valley Partner’s energy, where energy is the average hourly capacity usage, initially over TVA fiscal years 2015 through 2019, or (2) one megawatt of aggregated capacity.
  4. All Valley Partner energy resource facilities must be distribution scale and located within the service territory of the Valley Partner. Exceptions to the location requirement, due to circumstances such as restrictive siting, may be approved by the CEO after notice to the Finance, Rates, and Portfolio Committee.
  5. Valley Partner energy resource output must be provided or distributed only to the Valley Partner’s end-use customers.
  6. A Valley Partner’s energy resource implementation must be consistent with TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan to ensure that TVA’s system carbon position is improved.

This decision comes after 135 of TVA’s 154 municipalities and cooperatives have signed 20-year power purchase contracts, with Chattanooga’s EPB signing the agreement last month and Memphis Light Gas and Water still studying whether or not to sign. 

TVA is looking to develop more of its own utility-scale solar generation, recently announcing it is boosting its solar energy capability by 44 percent from 2019 by adding 284 megawatts of new contracted solar generation from five new projects in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

Former House Speaker and ETSU president nominated to TVA board

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate former Republican Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) President Brian Noland to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.

According to TVA, board members are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Each member serves for five years. 

Harwell became the first female speaker of the house in 2011. Since losing a race for governor in 2018, she has been working in the private sector and teaching classes, including one at Middle Tennessee State University.

Senator Lamar Alexander released a statement about Harwell’s appointment, saying, “I have encouraged and admired Beth Harwell and her style of leadership since she began her career in public service. Throughout her time in the Tennessee House of Representatives, and as Speaker of the House, Beth has worked with the TVA on several issues. She understands that TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley, and I know her leadership will be a valuable asset to the TVA board. I am glad President Trump nominated her, and I look forward to her confirmation by the United States Senate.”

Noland has been the president of ETSU since 2012. Previously, he was the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System.

Alexander also championed Noland’s appointment in a formal statement, stating, “Brian is a respected leader in East Tennessee, and during his tenure as president, he has helped transform Tennessee’s fourth largest university, East Tennessee State University. His administrative experience makes him the right person to help keep TVA on a good path – to continue to provide clean, cheap, reliable electricity at the lowest possible rates for homes and businesses through the seven-state Tennessee Valley region. I hope the Senate will quickly consider his nomination and look forward to his confirmation.”

Thank you for submitting your Tom Ballard Award nominations!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) wants to thank everyone who submitted nominations for this year’s Tom Ballard Award. Nominations closed on Monday, February 3 at noon.

TAEBC received multiple nominations from an impressive array of individuals, including local business leaders, academia, and company executives. The winner will be contacted soon. 

The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

TAEBC promotes the state’s advanced energy economy as an economic development and job creation strategy through sharing information, connecting stakeholders, and strengthening the industry. These pillars are personally exemplified by the tireless work of Tom Ballard, an unparalleled leader, educator, mentor, and advocate of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

Ballard was TAEBC’s first president upon its launch in 2014 and served on the board of directors until 2019. He is currently the Chief Alliance Officer of Pershing Yoakley & Associates and serves as editor of Teknovation.biz, an online service launched in 2011 to spotlight and celebrate all things related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Tennessee.

The first-ever award went to Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Without Tom Ballard, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council would have never grown to the level of success it experiences today,” said Cortney Piper, vice president and executive director of TAEBC. “It’s impossible to measure Tom’s impact on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy with words alone, and for that reason he is most deserving of having an award being named in his honor.”

This year’s recipient will receive the award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. If you would like to attend, please RSVP by following this link.

Launch Tennessee adopts updated strategic plan, emphasizes capital formation, market building, and resource deployment

Launch Tennessee’s (LaunchTN) Board of Directors recently adopted an updated version of its strategic plan at its latest quarterly meeting. The updated plan emphasizes three key strategies: capital formation, market building, and systemic resource deployment. 

Capital Formation
According to the plan, one of LaunchTN’s strategies is to “expand capital resources and expedite their availability to TN businesses so that they can grow, be sustainable, create jobs, and build accessible economic prosperity for our state.” To achieve this strategy, LaunchTN’s objectives are to increase access to available LaunchTN capital and proactively engage with investors across the state, country, and world to improve access to non-LaunchTN capital. The organization will also develop outbound marketing initiatives to target other investors. 

Market Building
Building upon capital formation, LaunchTN intends to “identify and recruit recognized leaders in relevant markets to drive a systemic solution for stakeholders to engage, connect, and achieve mutually beneficial results by working together.” To adhere to this strategy, LaunchTN has three main objectives: build an accountable environment of systemic teamwork, collaboration, and communication with market and ecosystem builders; optimize corporate/big company engagement with startups; and develop outbound marketing initiatives targeting market and ecosystem builders. 

Systemic Resource Deployment
LaunchTN wrote that it aims to “streamline the connection of our statewide Network Partners and other stakeholders to resources that enable a high-functioning ecosystem in Tennessee for entrepreneurship.” LaunchTN has outlined four objectives in order to work toward this strategy: enhance and drive connectivity and convening; establish competitive policy influence; implement and optimize information systems; and develop and execute an outbound marketing strategy. 

In addition to other changes, CEO Margaret Dolan highlighted the organization’s new mission and vision statement to include the words “empowering a network of resources.” 

One of TAEBC’s commitments to our members and stakeholders is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups. TAEBC works to fulfill this goal through our Energy Mentor Network that serves as one of LaunchTN’s Statewide Network Partners and pairs knowledgeable mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs in the region. 

Currently, the Energy Mentor Network has six participating startups who are working through the structured program, which involves panel presentations and mentoring sessions. The purpose of the program is to help develop and support quality advanced energy startups. Four startups have graduated from the program to date. To learn more about Energy Mentor Network startups or become a mentor, click here.

Volkswagen, UTK, and ORNL to create innovation hub at UT Research Park

Volkswagen, the University of Tennessee, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have partnered to create the automaker’s first innovation hub in North America. The hub will be located at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Key stakeholders recently held a press conference at UT Research Park to announce the collaboration and hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. 

According to the official press release, the collaboration involves research opportunities for doctoral students with initial work focused on creating lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, electric vehicles, and other innovative automotive pursuits. 

Randy Boyd, President, University of Tennessee speaking

“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, VW’s executive vice president and chief engineering officer for the region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”

Volkwagen first partnered with the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, when it opened its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. In late 2019, the automaker broke ground on a $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. 

TAEBC welcomes advanced energy solutions and partnerships like the innovation hub. This opportunity reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in the country, as previously stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner.