Federal Climate Bill Would Clean Tennessee Air | WPLN News

If the federal spending plan passes this week, utilities like the Tennessee Valley Authority are expected to significantly increase their renewable energy capacity. Shalina ChatlaniWPLN

On Thursday, Congress could vote on what experts say is the country’s first major climate legislation.

In the $ 3.5 trillion spending program, there is one particular climate provision that would dramatically change the energy grid over the next 10 years: the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Basically, it’s a “carrot and financial stick,” says Maggie Shober, director of utilities reform at the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Under this program, utilities are expected to increase their renewable energy capacity by 4% each year to receive grants from the Department of Energy, which would be used in customer-focused programs such as utility assistance. billing, energy efficiency and worker retention. Otherwise, utilities would have to submit a payment – $ 40 for every megawatt hour the utility fails to meet the 4% target.

This would force utilities to replace fossil fuel capacity with renewable energy, which would provide immediate and substantial health benefits from reduced fine particle emissions and ozone pollution.

“We are seeing lives that will be saved because of this,” Shober said.

The health benefits would include less severe and less frequent asthma attacks in children and adults, and fewer heart attacks, premature births, premature death and other respiratory illnesses.

A national study found that non-Hispanic blacks would experience the greatest reductions in pollution exposure proportionately, due to their current disproportionate proximity to power plants.

This study, from Harvard University and Clean Energy Futures, ranked Tennessee eighth in the country for having the greatest expected reduction in premature deaths by 2030 under this program.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is ahead of most Southeastern utilities in electricity derived from sources other than fossil fuels, thanks to nuclear and hydroelectric plants, so it could meet the minimum threshold 85% of the program before 2030.

But according to TVA’s current long-term proposal, the expected annual increase in utility service is only 0.3% per year between 2023 and 2030, according to analysis by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

So the plan could force TVA to build more solar and wind farms – and could even affect their plans for new natural gas power plants.

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