Freedom to choose

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Freedom to choose

Choices. Not quite as American as apple pie, but pretty close. Given the foundations and the relative wealth of our nation, we’re accustomed to having lots of choices in just about everything we do. We like to have choices, whether it’s selecting a movie to watch, buying a car, or deciding on chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or one of the 28 other flavors.

Other choices are more complex and have long-lasting consequences. One of our most complicated choices involves producing enough energy and getting that energy into your home. This continuous process involves thousands of co-op member- owners and employees across the nation every single day.

The Tennessee Valley Authority generates the electricity we deliver, and its task is as challenging as ours. Some decisions in the past may have knocked TVA from its perch as the lowest-cost provider, but TVA has a long history of providing dependable, low-cost power to Tennesseans.

Generating and delivering electricity to your home involves a lot of difficult choices — a difficult-to-achieve balance of providing enough energy and doing so with a limited impact on the environment. It takes a balance of engineering, design and operational efficiency against environmental and safety concerns. Add cost-effectiveness to that list, and you’ve set some tough goals.

Sometimes, we don’t get to choose. There have been countless attempts to craft energy policy at the federal level. Past efforts would have punished the Southeast for our geography. The wind and sun don’t create as much energy in our region as they do in the West and Midwest. And they never will. Tax credits and financial incentives can’t make the wind blow or the sun shine.

To put it succinctly, we don’t need — or want — Washington policymakers making decisions on how we generate our electricity. Political machinations are a poor substitute for meticulous planning and analysis. Even worse, the choices made by outsiders are ours to live with for decades.

Effective energy policy should be about providing choices. Different solutions work better for different parts of the country.

One example: TVA and the Department of Energy recently entered into a partnership developing small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Together with Babcock & Wilcox, this cooperative effort could lead to a new generation of lower-cost, clean generation capacity. TVA has been evaluating small nuclear reactors for several years. The Clinch River site, which TVA had once slated for a much larger, costlier facility, is where the SMR project will be located.

This type of project is among those needed for a balanced energy future. Energy policy shouldn’t be about picking winners and losers; it should be focused on providing you with an affordable, reliable supply of electricity.

The nation’s electric utilities will need a variety of energy sources, from solar arrays to SMRs, to meet those needs. We can achieve our energy goals; we just need the freedom to make the right choices.

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