Study shows TVA power plants are reducing emissions faster than national average

Source: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

A federal study shows Tennessee Valley Authority power plants have reduced emissions of two key acid rain components to a fraction of what was being released 30 years ago, and at a rate faster than the national average for the industry. 

The study released Dec. 20 by the Environmental Protection Agency touted the success of the Acid Rain Program, designed to reduce emissions from the country’s fossil-fueled power plants. The figures showed nationwide sulfur dioxide emissions have been reduced 64 percent since 1990 and 67 percent since 1980. Sulfur dioxide is a compound released from the burning of coal, and a key component of acid rain. 

TVA’s data from 2009 shows the utility reduced its sulfur dioxide emissions by 82 percent since 1990 and 87 percent since 1980. In 2009, TVA emitted 198,490 tons of sulfur dioxide, nearly 1.39 million tons less sulfur dioxide than it did in 1980, and 896,550 tons less than in 1990. 

“TVA has spent more than $5 billion to install emissions control equipment across our coal fleet since 1977,” said Anda Ray, TVA senior vice president for Environment and Technology. “That investment is paying off by allowing us to produce low-cost power in a manner that meets federal guidelines.” 

The EPA figures show one TVA fossil plant in Tennessee, Bull Run, cut its sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 96 percent since 2008, primarily through the installation of emissions control technology at the plant. TVA operates 11 coal-fired generating plants with 59 units. TVA has idled, or intends to idle by 2015, nine generating units within its coal plant fleet. The decrease in coal capacity will be made up by cleaner energy options including energy efficiency and nuclear power. 

TVA has also significantly reduced its nitrogen oxide emissions, another component of acid rain, cutting output approximately 9 percent faster than the national average. The EPA report highlighted a 77 percent national reduction in nitrogen oxides from the country’s fossil generation fleet between the years of 1990 and 2009. Nitrogen oxides are produced by burning fossil fuels, motor-vehicle exhaust, decaying vegetation and many industries. 

TVA emissions of nitrogen oxides decreased nearly 86 percent between 1990 and 2009, including an 89 percent reduction from the agency’s peak in 1995. TVA emitted 57,740 tons of nitrogen oxides in 2009. 

That was 346,560 tons less than in 1990. The reduction in nitrogen oxides is equal to removing 18 million cars, pick-up trucks and sport utility vehicles from the road each year. 

The federal Acid Rain Program began in 1995 under the Clean Air Act. 

TVA is studying ways to further reduce emissions over the next 20 years as part of its Integrated Resource Plan. The plan, which will be submitted to the TVA board of directors in the spring, will help TVA decide its current and future generation sources, energy efficiency goals and programs, and use of such alternative energy sources as wind and solar power. 

“We have a commitment to improving the way we protect, preserve and enhance the environment and we can always do more,” Ray said. “TVA has adopted a vision to be one of the nation’s leading providers of low-cost and cleaner energy by 2020. This includes being a national leader in improving air quality.”

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