Climate Change, Zika Virus, TVA and Clean Line Windpower , Dr. Stephen A. Smith

Below are the public comments given by Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Executive Director, Dr. Stephen A. Smith, to the TVA Board of Directors during a public meeting held August 25, 2016.

First, thank you for the move to develop the Distributed Energy Resources department. We look forward to working with Jay and his team as this comes together.

In my very limited time, I wanted to attempt to connect some historic dots that have been in the headlines and link them back to decisions that you as a Board, in coordination with staff, will be making. First a few facts:

Zika virus in South Florida. Click the image to view the Miami Herald article.

This, my friends, is not normal. These are historic, extraordinary, life-threatening and life-disrupting events. The United States issued the first domestic infectious disease travel advisory since the 1950’s earlier this month for Florida over the spread of Zika virus. This is an historic advisory. (The FDA is now expanding the testing of blood for Zika in the United States.) SACE has a pregnant staff member in south Florida who is now effectively in a state of house arrest because of this vector borne tropical disease outbreak.

What ties these events together is climate change. Historic heat allows for the atmosphere to hold more water vapor, which leads to more torrential downpours, leading to record flooding. The heat shortens the development stages of mosquitoes and expands the geographic range. Then the rain allows for more breeding sites, which in turn allows for the rapid spread of the vector born tropical diseases. This has all been predicated with great accuracy and now is playing out in real time. TVA has made significant and historic progress in reducing carbon emissions, but there is more that needs to be done.

Flooding at the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, Louisiana. Simon Mahan 2016

TVA staff put out a recent Request For Information for renewable energy and received a number of proposals. While we are not privy to the results, a recent study by DOE’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory shows that wind prices are at historic lows, in many cases lower than natural gas. One renewable energy project that represents a historic opportunity is the Plains & Eastern Clean Line project. This project has the potential to bring an unprecedented amount, 4,000 megawatts (MWs), of low-cost, zero-carbon clean energy to not only the TVA region but also to other southeastern states. The use of High Voltage Direct Current to move low cost wind to load centers without congestion on the transmission lines is an historic opportunity of national significance.

SACE strongly believes that this project deserves significant consideration. The low cost wind coupled with the concurrent transmission revenue that TVA will likely receive for wheeling the wind power to other recipients makes the deal more competitive for TVA consumers, even if your demand is low, by displacing higher cost fossil fuels.

What motivates our advocacy is the ability to further reduce the amount of carbon that is being released, leading to the historic events I shared earlier. We believe Clean Line is “in the money” or very close. It will help our region dramatically increase our use of clean, zero-carbon renewable energy, diversify our energy mix, and allow TVA to play a national leadership role in helping strategically develop our natural abundance of clean renewable energy in a cost effective way, thus decreasing our carbon output and helping others do the same. Those of you on the stage and many decision makers in this room, you are not just passive observers to these historic events.  You have the ability to make historic decisions that will impact the course of history — all of our history.


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You go ahead Dr. Smith and try to sell the Clean Line tired old arguments that we in Arkansas and Oklahoma have heard for years now. Clean Line always seems to find a new patsy to spin for them. The truth is, the TVA has shown virtually no interest in the energy Clean Line will carry, not seeing a need for it for years. No other customers have signed on either, as shown in the recent letter authored by their counsel updating FERC on their progress. The fact is, this line is utterly unnecessary to the advancement of renewable energy, and the real pros in the energy business know that. As for this being “clean” energy, recently Clean Line testified before the Georgia PSC that potential customers would be able to buy energy generated by fossil fuels when the wind didn’t blow enough. Glen Hooks, head of the Arkansas chapter of the Sierra Club emailed me that they had known this all along. In other words, just one more pig-in-a-poke Clean Line and their supporters have sold the public. So, this line is not so “clean” after all. The only thing green about this project are the greenbacks the wealthy investors will pocket. And for just another “dirty” line, we Arkansans will give up 8,000 acres of our beautiful, fragile environment. As for them being “in the money or real close” we will let the federal judge who decides the lawsuit filed against the DOE last week decide that. The future of energy production is in locally produced energy, not in long-distance transmission lines susceptible to terror attacks and natural disasters. As noted recently by the CEO of the Southern Company, long distance transmission lines are to hard to build and operate. Each area of the country has the capability of producing their own energy at a cheaper cost to obtain than these type projects will offer. Arkansas is already using renewable wind energy from Oklahoma and we are fully in favor of that. What we oppose is a redundant line for which no one sees the need being crammed down our throats by the federal government with little or no benefit to anyone. You are just the latest puppet that Clean Line has trotted out to no avail. So, dance puppet dance before this entire travesty falls apart.

Comment by Julie Morton on August 26, 2016 7:20 pm

The Department of Energy completed an extensive environmental impact statement for Clean Line. The net environmental effect of Clean Line is a big win for the southeast. With low-cost wind power, we can reduce the use of fossil fuels.

The Clean Line project effectively represents the largest new renewable energy project in the country.

Comment by Simon Mahan on August 29, 2016 10:54 am

Clean Line is an unprecedented opportunity for the Southeast to get clean, pollution-free power for very little money. It’s a win for families’ pocketbooks and public health.

Comment by Chris Carnevale on August 29, 2016 11:01 am

Great blog. I hope my utility in Georgia purchases wind energy from Clean Line. It will connect some of the lowest-cost energy resources to our region. No brainer.

Comment by Allie Brown on August 29, 2016 1:48 pm

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