The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted a virtual Lunch and Learn with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Jeannette Mills, Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer, on November 18. Mills was joined by three other special guests from TVA: Dan Pratt, Vice President of Customer Delivery; Amy Henry, Director of Transformative Innovation; and Aaron Melda, SVP of Transmission Power Supply and Support.
Mills drives TVA’s vision and execution for relationships with customers, communities, government officials, stakeholder groups, and regional industry. She also oversees TVA’s economic development activities and its role as regulator. Jeannette came to TVA in February 2020 with over 30 years of commercial and regulatory experience in the energy, utility, and consumer services sectors.
During her presentation, Mills spoke about TVA’s advanced energy priorities, COVID-19 response efforts, economic development work, long-term partnerships, and Flexibility Option. She discussed the ways advanced energy serves as an economic development driver in Tennessee. Areas include the lithium ion battery market driving original equipment manufacturer expansion (OEM); TVA’s generation mix and renewable solutions encouraging recent electric vehicle (EV) and EV OEM announcements; and economic development partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Speaking about Flexibility Options for local power companies (LPCs), Mills discussed a few notable flexibility projects and said TVA believes the initial 3-5 percent flexible generation enabled through the option is “a starting point to learn together with the LPCs.”
“We’re really excited about this new component of flexibility and so are our local power companies,” said Mills. “We believe the flexibility projects are a win-win for everybody.”
Regarding EVs, Mills reiterated TVA’s approach to accelerate EV adoption through partnerships to remove market barriers in key areas: charging infrastructure availability; EV availability and offerings; innovative and supportive policies; and consumer awareness. She mentioned the TVA Board of Directors recent approval of a new commercial rate structure to promote the expansion of EV charging infrastructure.
“The growing EV market is a significant opportunity for TVA and the Valley as a whole,” she said.
Looking ahead at TVA’s transformative innovation initiatives, Mills outlined the six key technologies: storage integration, EV evolution, grid transformation, connected communities, advanced nuclear solutions, and decarbonization options.
At the close of her presentation, Mills invited attendees to register for the “2019 IRP Near-Term Action Update” on December 9 from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. EST. The virtual event will provide an update on the progress on near-term actions in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. Topics include TVA’s fleet, grid transformation, energy usage and renewable energy. Register here.
During the Q&A session, Mills was joined by Pratt, Henry, and Melda. Panelists answered questions on a wide variety of topics, including how TVA plans to transform the grid in the next few years and TVA’s Community Care Fund, which provides matching funds to address hardships created by the pandemic in families and communities. They also answered several questions on the topic of EVs.
“EVs are a perfect sweet spot in the Valley for the three Es we talk about,” said Pratt, highlighting the energy, economic development, and environmental benefits of EV growth in the state. “The Valley is perfectly situated to help this EV technology grow and expand.”
Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC, provided closing remarks by thanking panelists and attendees. She discussed TAEBC’s Op-Ed, “Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy” and the organization’s commitment to working with TVA and other stakeholders and desire to serve as a resource and partner in pursuing advanced energy strategies.
“We are in a very unique position to use energy again as an economic development and job creation strategy to pull us out of this recession,” Piper said. “And as an organization, we believe advanced transportation, specifically, which would include electric vehicles, has great, great potential.”