U.S. TVA to cut carbon emission by 70 percent by end of next decade: CEO

(Reuters) - The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) expects to reduce carbon emissions at the U.S.-owned power generator by 70 percent from 2005 levels by the end of the next decade, the company’s chief executive officer said on Friday.

TVA CEO Jeff Lyash said the company currently gets more than half of its generation from power plants that emit no greenhouse gases, including 40% from nuclear and 10%-15% from hydro, depending on the year.

Lyash replaced Bill Johnson as TVA’s CEO in April. Johnson, who ran TVA from 2013-2019, is now CEO of California energy company PG&E Corp, overseeing its restructuring. PG&E sought bankruptcy protection in January.

During Johnson’s tenure, TVA spent about $15 billion to modernize its generating fleet, reduced carbon emissions by retiring coal units and cut debt by $3.5 billion, all while keeping consumer electric prices basically flat.

Lyash plans to continue reducing TVA’s debt from about $23.6 billion now to around $20 billion in the 2024-2025 timeframe, reduce carbon emissions further and keep consumer electric prices basically flat over the next decade.

Lyash said he expects carbon emissions will drop from about 60 percent below 2005 levels in the 2020-2021 timeframe to about 70 percent below 2005 levels by the end of the 2020s as the company gets more power out of its nuclear plants and renewables, while closing a couple of coal plants already scheduled to shut.

TVA said in February it would shut the Bull Run coal plant in Tennessee by 2023 and the Paradise plant in Kentucky by 2020 for economic reasons despite strong opposition from the pro-coal administration of U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We see coal as part of the portfolio long term, but we all know coal is under some pressure. Any decision to shut more coal would be an economic decision similar to our decision to shut Bull Run and Paradise,” Lyash said.

In the near term, coal and natural gas will each make up about 20 percent of TVA’s generation, Lyash said.

“It is as diverse a fuel mix as I think you will find in the U.S. power industry and puts TVA and its customers in a good spot to face the future,” Lyash said.

Lyash said TVA plans to boost its solar power capacity to around four to nine gigawatts (GW) over the next 20 years from around one GW now. A gigawatt can power about one million U.S. homes.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; editing by Diane Craft