Guest column by Jeff Lyash, CEO, Tennessee Valley Authority
The Tennessee Valley Authority’s objective is to never interrupt the flow of power to your cooperative. That’s what we strive for. TVA recognizes that we fell short of that during Winter Storm Elliott.
The National Weather Service referred to Elliott as a “once-in-a-generation storm” that brought record-breaking cold temperatures and high winds to our region and all across the nation. On Friday, Dec. 23, the morning lows were 1 degree below zero in Nashville, 1 degree in Memphis, 4 degrees in Knoxville and 7 degrees in Chattanooga.
Because of these low temperatures and high winds, TVA set multiple records for energy use across the Tennessee Valley. These included the most electricity ever used during a 24-hour period, the third-highest amount of electricity used at a single time and the highest amount of electricity ever used at one time on a weekend. For reference, the amount of energy we supplied on Dec. 23 alone is enough to power more than 70,000 homes for an entire year.
TVA anticipated and prepared for this weather event, yet the storm’s speed and intensity exceeded our efforts. TVA’s directly served and industrial customers acted quickly — in 30 minutes or less — to reduce their consumption. Preliminary results show that end-use participants in demand response programs provided about 1,500 megawatts of relief during the event. But these actions alone were not enough to protect the grid from potentially catastrophic damage.
For the first time in its history, TVA had to direct local power companies, including your co-op, to implement temporary localized power interruptions due to the extreme demand for electricity.
We’re aware that your cooperative and the other local power companies we serve know the best way to reduce that demand without impacting critical infrastructure. They also know how to cycle load reduction to minimize the duration and impact on all customers.
I want to thank all of our 153 local power companies, the employees of TVA and your co-op who braved the elements to serve their communities, local officials and the people in the region for their support throughout this event. During an extreme event like this, it takes all of us working together to successfully mitigate the duration and impact on the whole system.
TVA recognizes that we fell short of the public’s expectations to deliver reliable electricity 24/7/365, even under extreme conditions. We are conducting a comprehensive review of the actions we took before and during the event, and we look forward to gathering input from various stakeholders. We will learn from this event and put actions in place to ensure we are prepared to manage events like this in the future.
TVA defines energy security as power that is affordable, reliable and resilient. For nearly 90 years, TVA has had a relentless focus on achieving all these attributes simultaneously. We are sharpening that focus even further. Our commitment is to deliver a diverse energy system that provides affordable, reliable, resilient and clean energy. It’s what you expect and deserve. And it’s what TVA will deliver.