Coal, Policy & Regulation

Tennessee Valley Authority votes to close coal-fired power plants

The TVA has opted to follow the recommendations of its environmental assessment committee-and disregard the social media advice of President Trump-in announcing it will close a coal-fired power plant in western Kentucky.

The federal corporation’s board voted to retire the sole remaining coal-fired unit at the Paradise Fossil Plant in Muhlenberg County, KY. The decision could put 131 people out of work. Also, the coal the TVA buys from nearby mines supports 135 jobs.

The TVA board also voted to close the Bull Run Fossil Plant coal-fired generation in Oak Ridge, Tenn. TVA officials say that hundreds of millions of dollars will be saved in compliance and environmental upgrade costs by closing the plants.

“Making decisions that impact employees and communities is difficult as we fulfill our commitment to keep power rates as low as possible,’” said outgoing TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson, who is retiring in April. “We value the contributions of the employees of Paradise and Bull Run, and we will be working directly with them and local communities to ease the transition as much as possible.”

The Paradise closure decision ignores the wishes of hundreds of local residents, many state GOP leaders and President Trump. The president sent out a tweet in support of keeping Paradise open, following his campaign promise to be a supporter of the U.S. coal industry.

 “Coal is an important part of our electricity mix and @TVAnews should give consideration to all factors before voting to close viable power plants, like Paradise  #3 in Kentucky!” Trump tweeted.

The tweet received more than 84,000 hearts (Twitter equivalent of Facebook likes) and some 17,000 comments. One of those comments was from the TVA itself.

“Mr. President, coal is an important part of TVA’s power generation mix and we will give serious consideration to all factors as we make this decision,” @TVANews replied.

In the end, however, the environmental assessment found that TVA is experiencing flat to declining load, while natural gas prices have remained relatively low. The economics and environment costs are not in Paradise’s favor.

Johnson noted that TVA had worked with solar developers to add 674 MW of added clean energy in the past six months. TVA’s integrated resource plan calls for even more renewable investment in the near future, he added.

(The Associated Press contributed to this article).