U.S. Senate panel hears from Trump nominees to TVA board

A U.S. Senate subcommittee heard testimony Tuesday from President Trump’s four nominees to the TVA Board of Directors. Jeffrey Smith, deputy director of operations at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the only Tennessean among the four, emphasized the need for clean energy in recruiting new business investment within the region, reports WPLN.  No vote was taken.

“I can tell you that low-cost, clean — and that ‘clean’ comes up more and more often these days — and reliable power is always a consideration in site selection,” he said.

All four candidates emphasized the importance of clean energy, including Kenneth Allen, a retired coal company executive from Kentucky who acknowledged the U.S. would continue its shift towards other power sources.

This is in line with TVA’s current strategy, despite President Trump’s promise to revive the coal industry. The utility’s chief executive said this summer that TVA plans to place more of an emphasis on natural gas and nuclear energy, while phasing out half of its coal plants, according to Bloomberg.

“I think nuclear is an important part of the generation mix that TVA needs to continue to supply to the region,” said Jeff Smith, deputy director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which spends nearly $1.4 billion a year on research on nuclear power and other technologies. “TVA should be commended, in my opinion, for successfully starting up Watts Bar Unit 2. We tend to be struggling as a country right now in starting up new nuclear plants. But I can see TVA being an important provider of power generated from nuclear assets for a long time in the future.”

Also nominated are A.D. Frazier, president emeritus of Georgia Oak Partners and former chairman of Goldl Kist Inc., and James R. Thompson III, chief executive and president of corporate billing at National Commerce Corp. in Alabama.

The Times-Free Press reports Smith also declared a need for nuclear power and Allen said coal needs to be part of the energy equation as well.

“I think nuclear is an important part of the generation mix that TVA needs to continue to supply to the region,” said Jeff Smith, deputy director of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, which spends nearly $1.4 billion a year on research on nuclear power and other technologies. “TVA should be commended, in my opinion, for successfully starting up Watts Bar Unit 2. We tend to be struggling as a country right now in starting up new nuclear plants. But I can see TVA being an important provider of power generated from nuclear assets for a long time in the future.”

… None of the TVA nominees suggested that TVA should reverse its move away from coal-fired generation, which once supplied two thirds of TVA power and is on pace to generate only 20 percent of TVA’s electricity by 2020… But Kenny Allen, a retired executive who has defended the coal industry throughout his career at Armstrong Coal Co., said coal and other fossil fuels are needed to help generate electricity, which he said “is the very foundation of our standard of living.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Allen “understands the challenge of the coal industry in our state” and will bring that perspective to the TVA board.

Note: Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker both issued press releases praising Jeff Smith. The Alexander version is HERE; the Corker version HERE.

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