TVA first: Renewables outstrip coal thanks to weather, pandemic


For the first time in more than six decades, one of the US’ largest utilities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) generated more power from renewables than coal over the first quarter of 2020.

Coal made up just 12% of the utility’s generation over the period, and given the drastic reduction in demand from the commercial sector during the country’s lockdown, TVA turned off its 25 remaining coal-fired units at times, and relied entirely upon its nuclear, hydro, natural gas, solar and purchased power supplies.

The utility, which serves seven US states, has phased out more than half of it’s 59 coal-fired plants to date, the latest being the closure of the Paradise Fossil Plant in Kentucky in February.

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According to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, electricity generated by renewable sources like solar, wind and hydro exceeded coal-fired power in the US for a record 40 straight days and throughout the month of April.

To address the economic uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the utility is providing up to $1 billion in credit support to local power companies and is partnering with local power companies on a $2 million matching funds program to support local agencies.

“The progress we’ve made putting our long-term financial strategy in place over the past six years has strengthened our balance sheet with significantly reduced spending and debt levels,” said TVA Chief Financial Officer John Thomas. “The recovery from the COVID-19 outbreak will impact the whole area for some time. TVA and public power must leverage their ability to support a quicker recovery for our communities and businesses.”

For the six months ending on March 31, TVA’s operating revenues were down about 7%, primarily due to milder winter weather with only a slight impact from COVID-19.