As the Tennessee Valley Authority pushes to meet its ambitious goals for decarbonization, the authority's independent watchdog is asking the nation's largest public power company to bring more discipline to its operations.
Among its key conclusions, the TVA Office of the Inspector General found TVA needs to improve how it chooses and tracks new technologies, such as small modular nuclear reactors, to generate electricity for 10 million people across Tennessee and parts of six other states, as well as industrial and federal facilities.
Additionally, the inspector general warned that TVA is not effectively tracking what research and development records it is creating, and that records are stored on home and shared drives that could be vulnerable to outsiders.
The inspector general's report, issued Thursday, focused on findings and recommendations, and includes TVA's response to the report.
What did the watchdog
"Over the past decade, TVA has generally adopted commercially available, mature resource technologies," says the inspector general's report. "However, as TVA seeks to integrate new resource technologies, such as small modular reactors, having consistent methods for evaluating new technologies may reduce negative consequences such as cost, increases, schedule delays, or delivering lower capability than expected."
The inspector general recommends TVA follows a framework promoted by the Office of Government Accountability for adopting new technologies and evaluating their risks and readiness. TVA said it already has a variety of methods in place for evaluation, but agreed to standardize the process to follow the Office of Government Accountability recommendations.
As far as the weaknesses in records management, the report says that TVA management has been notified of these issues in the past but "limited steps were taken to address them." Some of TVA's research and development records "were being created or maintained by the agency, and records were being maintained on home drives and shared drives."
A 2019 National Archives and Records Administration report said TVA needs to inventory these records. However, the inspector general's report said TVA's research and development groups have not figured out which of its records should be considered official and therefore be maintained. The research and development teams have also failed to organize and store their records on TVA's content management system.
TVA response is included in the inspector general's report, and the authority says it has already made progress on implementing standard programs and practices for its technology development and recordkeeping. The inspector general's auditor has accepted TVA's plan to improve.
How will TVA significantly
reduce carbon emissions?
In an effort to reduce 70% of its carbon emissions by 2030, TVA is developing new or unproven technology, applying existing technology to different or new uses; or combining both new and existing technology to achieve its goal.
Among the efforts to meet its decarbonization goal, TVA is:
Reducing the use of coal plants and considering retiring its coal fleet by 2035
Investing in its nuclear and hydro fleets
Investing in its gas fleet to be reliable year round and be able to support the intermittent use of renewable energy
Increasing its solar capacity by 2035 to 10,000 megawatts
Increasing its portfolio in battery storage by including lithium-ion batteries. This storage will aide the use of renewable energy sources such as solar as it will contain energy from solar even when the sun does not shine.
Anila Yoganathan is a Knox News investigative reporter. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow her on Twitter @anilayoganathan. Enjoy exclusive content and premium perks while supporting strong local journalism by subscribing at knoxnews.com/subscribe.