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August 20, 2023 | Tom Ballard

TVA’s Jeff Lyash delivers keynote on final day of the “Southeast Energy Policy Forum”

The three-day program wrapped up its inaugural run with his thoughts the challenges facing the nation's future energy system.

Less than three weeks after delivering one of the keynote addresses at the East Tennessee Economic Council’s “Nuclear Opportunities Workshop,” Jeff Lyash was again up to bat, so to speak, delivering another speech on the third and final day of the “Southeast Energy Policy Forum.”

Hosted by the new Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), the forum wrapped up August 18 with a half-day program featuring the presentation by the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a panel focused on the challenges of regulations that included former U.S. Senator and Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, and a session titled “Revisiting Vision 2050” that featured Mike Howard, the Day 1 keynoter who is Chair of the World Energy Council.

Lyash’s topic was “Perspectives on What Our Future Energy System Has to Deliver.” To set the stage, he started with a quote from Jack Welch, the former Chair and CEO of General Electric, who advised, “Face reality as it is, not as you want it to be.”

After listing the obvious – energy is important and fossil fuels are finite, Lyash noted that we used four trillion hours of electricity in 2022, a figure that will likely double or even triple by 2050.

“Energy security and decarbonization are vitally important,” he said, adding, “We should not have to make a choice. If we do, energy security comes out on top.”

Secure energy means it is affordable, reliable, and resilient. “Resilient is different from being reliable,” Lyash said. “It is how the system performs when what you didn’t want to happen does.”

Tennessee faces a particular challenge as it and other Southeastern states are seeing significant numbers of people moving to the region, and that drives-up energy demand. As an example, he explained that TVA is facing 3,000 megawatts of new demand coming from new industrial loads alone.

“It took us 90 years to build this (TVA) system,” Lyash said. “We have to build two more systems (like it) in the next 30 years.”

That comes as the nation’s largest public utility deals with demand loads that have reached 29 megawatts at their peak and 12 megawatts on the low side which results in the need for great flexibility.

Technologies important for the future include hydrogen, solar, carbon capture and sequestration, and gas. Regarding the latter, Lyash said that gas is “vitally important when you need it, but it doesn’t run a lot. Gas is a bridge for energy security.”

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