Amy headshotBy Amy Henry, Director, Transformative Innovation, and Andrew Campbell, Senior Project Manager, Decarbonization Options Initiative, Tennessee Valley Authority 

Earlier this year, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Laboratory announced a memorandum of understanding, joining forces to advance the critical decarbonization technology effort from discovery to deployment. 

This announcement was preceded by TVA’s celebration of our 89th birthday, as well as the 40th anniversary of the 1982 World’s Fair that highlights historic developments in energy. Though there is much to honor and celebrate from the last several decades, TVA is not dwelling on the innovations from our past – we are hard at work building the energy system of the future. 

Building the energy system of the future 

There is a global change in consumer demand for cleaner and more efficient energy. TVA is evolving over the coming decades – we’re building an energy system of the future that will continue to be efficient, resilient, reliable, clean and affordable to provide electricity to the 153 local power companies we serve: 

  • We have established a portfolio of six transformative initiatives to build the energy system of the future: decarbonization options, connected communities, electric vehicle evolution, regional grid transformation, storage integration and advanced nuclear solutions. 
  • We have set ambitious goals to reduce carbon emissions from our own system and to help decarbonize other sectors of the economy like transportation and industrial processes. Today, almost 60% of the electricity we generate comes from non-emitting sources like hydroelectric facilities, nuclear and solar. Our goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is paired with our intention to keep reliability and affordability at the forefront of our service to the Tennessee Valley. 
  • TVA is evaluating a suite of technologies to cost-effectively reduce TVA’s carbon footprint to net-zero, including carbon capture, sequestration and utilization; alternative fuels; renewables and storage; electrification; and advanced nuclear. The endeavor to reach net zero will require technologies that have yet to be developed at the scale required for the energy system of the future. TVA will call on innovation in energy technology, natural resource stewardship and energy delivery to bolster systems for the future. 

We’re monitoring how these emerging technologies will scale up and achieve their industry potential with partnerships like the ones we currently have with The National Carbon Capture Center and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to understand how to deploy these technologies. 

Andrew headshotPartnerships of the future 

The complexity of the technology and initiatives in our path was the main driver of the MOU with ORNL, and we’re committed to working with the lab to advance these technologies. 

We’re also partnering with Oak Ridge National Laboratory on cleantech accelerator programs. We proudly support the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator, Innovation Crossroads and the recently announced Spark Cleantech Accelerator out of the Spark Innovation Center at UT Research Park. These programs foster innovative entrepreneurs and help them grow their clean energy technology businesses right here in our region. 

Anna Douglas at SkyNano Technologies is a prime example of an innovator from the Innovation Crossroads program who is continuing to scale her carbon capture technology. One day, her technology may be a part of the solution for carbon-free electricity. 

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council has been a valued partner in sharing TVA’s impact through the Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report and also by championing TVA’s effort to become an energy company of the future. 

Workforce of the future 

TVA is focused on workforce development to bolster the energy system of the future. As the system evolves, the skills needed to maintain and operate it will continue to evolve. Energy storage technologies, data analytics and resources for a modernized grid are all some of the critical skills our next generation of employees will need to have. 

It will also be crucial for the future workforce to be able to relate to partners and develop these business relationships. TVA enjoys working with partners toward applying new technologies in dynamic ways that offer flexible solutions. 

TVA was founded on the principle that it would be an innovator for the nation, developing and demonstrating technical solutions to a wide range of economic, environmental and societal challenges. Now, our nation is at the point where new low-cost and carbon-free technologies can become available only if they are supported by the right investments in research and development. 

Meeting the challenge to realize a decarbonized future requires the utility industry to use new thinking, and have new research focuses and the financial support to achieve significant carbon reductions. TVA is positioned to lead decarbonization efforts and is working with industry partners to address the need for new technologies to cost-effectively achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

To watch the full recording from our discussion during the TVA Lunch and Learn, click here. 

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