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July 11, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Webinar provides update on “Valley Pathways Study”

TVA and UTK are collaborating on study to provide a roadmap to achieve a net zero greenhouse gas emission economy by 2050. 

During an hourlong webinar Tuesday afternoon, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Guidehouse, its contractor, provided an update on the progress being made on the development of its “Valley Pathways Study.”

In collaboration with the new Baker School of Public Policy and Public Affairs at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), the work is expected to produce a roadmap to meet TVA’s goal of achieving a net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emission economy by 2050.

“We’re at the stage of developing, executing, and iterating modeling,” said Danielle Wilmot, Guidehouse’s Associate Director for Commercial Sustainability. She was joined by Ben Miller, another Associate Director, in presenting the bulk of the update.

The work kicked off in February and should be completed by the end of the year when another webinar will be scheduled. Much of the early effort was focused on establishing a baseline which Miller said indicated that 178 million metric tons of CO2 are emitted each year across the portions of the seven states that comprise TVA’s footprint.

Ironically, those emissions account for about three percent of the total across all 50 states, and the population of the TVA region is roughly three percent of the U.S. population. “That gives us confidence that our baseline is correct,” Miller said.

The transportation sector, particularly personal vehicles, accounts for 42 percent of the total emissions followed by the generation of electricity that results in another 30 percent.

In her introductory remarks, Laura Duncan, Manager of Origination and Renewable Support at TVA, said the goal of the study is to “build a competitive, clean economy for the Valley.”

That said, Wilmot emphasized that there is no unique right answer but rather multiple paths, a point that Miller reiterated as he discussed what he called “pathway scenarios” to arrive at options.

To help provide feedback, TVA and UTK have engaged a stakeholder group that meets frequently. The participants represent a broad cross-section of the seven states: manufacturing, agriculture, elected officials, universities and research agencies, economic developers, environmental groups, local power companies, organized labor, and vocational education, state energy offices, transportation, and those concerned about equity and environmental justice.

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