TVA to get 60 percent of energy from non-carbon sources by 2020: CEO

(Reuters) - The chief executive of the Tennessee Valley Authority said on Tuesday the U.S.-owned power generator expects to get more than 60 percent of its energy from non-carbon-emitting sources by 2020, compared with over 50 percent in 2018.

A section of coal is exposed in the rock face lining a road in Partridge, Kentucky, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Bill Johnson, who turned 65 in January, announced his retirement as CEO at TVA in November. His last day is Friday.

He is expected to be named as the new CEO of California energy company PG&E Corp, which sought bankruptcy protection in January amid potentially staggering liabilities related to wildfires, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Johnson would not comment on the PG&E rumors.

Since Johnson became CEO of TVA in 2013, the company has 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.

“Our generating fleet is now very diverse and clean,” Johnson said, noting the changes were driven by the mandate in the TVA Act “to produce energy at the lowest feasible rate.”

TVA’s energy mix is now about 40 percent nuclear, 20 percent natural gas, a little over 20 percent coal, 11-13 percent hydro and the rest renewables and energy efficiency.

That compares with 60 percent coal, little gas, 30 percent nuclear and the rest hydro in 2005.

TVA shut several coal-fired units over the past few years despite efforts by U.S. President Donald Trump to prop up the coal industry.

In February, TVA’s board voted to shut two more coal plants - Bull Run in Tennessee by 2020 and Paradise in Kentucky by 2023 - for economic reasons despite strong opposition from the Trump administration.

When those plants shut, Johnson said coal will only represent about 17 percent of TVA’s energy mix.

“I expect the fleet to look pretty similar for the next decade,” Johnson said, noting there is “the potential to add a significant amount of solar if customers demand it.”

TVA signed agreements for about 700 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity for specific customers, including Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook Inc. On Monday, the company issued a request for proposals to add 200 MW of solar power.

“It would not surprise me to see solar get into the thousands of megawatts,” Johnson said, noting more solar could require more gas-fired capacity to balance the renewable energy source when the sun stops shining.

Reporting by Scott DiSavino; Editing by James Dalgleish