NORRIS, TN – Today the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors held a public listening session at the Norris Middle School in Norris, Tenn. Mike Knotts, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, addressed the board during the listening session, and a readout of his comments is below.
Good afternoon to each of you. My name is Mike Knotts, and I serve as the CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and represent the 25 local utilities serving nearly 3 million people who depend on their cooperative to power their community.
It is a real pleasure to be here and celebrate 90 years of TVA’s history together with you. This history is OUR history, tightly intertwined with that of the local cooperatives and cities that have connected TVA to the millions of people and business over the years.
There is no denying that the connection between TVA, local power companies, and the residents of the Tennessee Valley have made an indelible impact on the lives of generations of Americans. Our story is unique in American history. And while the issues of the day and the challenges we face may look different in 2023 than they did in 1933, we should take pride in knowing that we have literally changed history through our unchanging mission of the last 90 years. We have a great story to tell.
Taking time to reflect on this is important. Electric cooperatives innately understand and appreciate the history TVA is celebrating today because we helped shape it – both in the Valley and across the country.
When TVA was formed it was given its unique multi-faceted mission because of the specific needs of this part of the country. But, a much broader problem existed across all corners of rural America. The problem was universal rural electrification. Though cities like Memphis or Chattanooga or Knoxville had enjoyed electricity for decades, other communities and farms, like where we stand here in Norris, did not.
The solution to the national problem came in the form of the cooperative. Self-owned, private corporations that are built for the benefit of its customers. Governed by its owners. Founded on seven bedrock principles and focused on the local community. While cooperatives were not a new idea – the seven cooperative principles were first enumerated during the industrial revolution in England – cooperatives were the right idea then and continue to be the relevant idea today.
Today, TECA members serve consumers across the state of Tennessee, covering almost 75% of the state’s land mass. In addition, these same 25 utilities also serve significant portions of Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia – as well some circuits in Alabama and Mississippi. If you are keeping count, yes, that is all seven states. Collectively, these 25 locally-owned utilities provide TVA approximately 25 percent of its revenues – well over $3B dollars per year.
You know, each of the grainy, black and white photos hanging in this room has its own story to tell and lessons to be learned. I’m particularly fond of that one (gesturing to the right), as it bears a striking resemblance to my late grandmother.
And as we all know to be true, those who do not learn from the past are most certainly doomed to repeat it. So, allow me to encourage each of you to learn from the achievements we recognize today.
But let me also encourage each of you look forward – with purpose and passion – knowing that your role on this Board is important and meaningful to millions of people. Our future won’t be told though grainy, black and white photos. Our future is being determined in real time in 4k video, and our inter-connected world allows it to be seen by anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Please know that your electric cooperative customers stand shoulder to shoulder with you, and are ready to work with you to ensure that TVA’s strategic direction remains focused on what is best for the people we jointly serve. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Please call on me anytime I can be of assistance to you.