Tennessee Valley Authority plans to shut coal plants by 2035

Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant
File photo: Steam rises from a cooling tower on September 7, 2007 at the Tennessee Valley Authority's Watts Bar Nuclear Plant in Spring City, Tennessee, 50 miles south of Knoxville. REUTERS/Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) - The Tennessee Valley Authority, a U.S.-owned utility, confirmed on Monday it plans to shut four remaining coal plants by 2035, the year by when President Joe Biden wants the nation's power grid to be decarbonized to fight climate change.

TVA first started using coal-fired plants in the 1950s, but has begun to retire older, less efficient units in keeping with its commitment to generate cleaner energy. In 2005 it generated 57% of its power with coal. By 2020 that had shrunk to 14% as it increased generation from nuclear, natural gas, and wind and solar.

Jeff Lyash, TVA's president & CEO, had said at an Atlantic Council event last week it planned to continue to retire coal plants over the next 15 years, but did not say which ones.

A TVA official confirmed on Monday that it plans to shut by 2035 the remaining four coal plants: the Shawnee plant, in Kentucky, and the Cumberland, Gallatin, and Kingston plants in Tennessee.

"These assets will all have reached the end of their life cycle by then," said Scott Brooks, a TVA spokesman. The plants have a combined capacity of more than 6,000 megawatts.

In 2019, TVA had voted to close another plant, Bull Run in Tennessee, by late 2023.

The TVA board will likely discuss at a quarterly meeting on Thursday plans on retiring the plants, including how to replace them, and take a final vote on the closures at a later date.

Replacing some of the coal plant power generation with small modular nuclear reactors is a possibility, Lyash has said, because the old sites have access to water resources and the grid. Small nuclear plants are seen by some as a source of virtually emissions-free power but none have been built yet for commercial use.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner and Scott Disavino; Editing by Karishma Singh

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