TUPELO, MS – Today the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors held a public listening session at the Cadence Bank Center in Tupelo, Miss. 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. My name is Mike Knotts, and I have the pleasure of serving as the CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. I appear here today on behalf of the 25 local power companies who collectively serve consumers in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Mississippi. TECA’s members own and operate over $6B in assets, and their wholesale power bills comprise over 25% of TVA’s revenues.
Cooperatives are unique among the TVA “family” of entities because co-ops are private companies, not government entities. Co-ops are owned by our specific, individual customers instead of a unit of government or even the public at large. This private-sector perspective brings a unique point of view and important context to the challenges we face. But because we are not for profit, we share in TVA’s purpose and labor every day to make our communities a better place. Electric co-ops empower rural and suburban Tennessee to grow and thrive, and our communities are smarter, healthier, more productive, and better connected because of electric co-ops.
We urge each of you, as you exercise your fiduciary duty to TVA, to actively seek the advice and counsel of your private sector, cooperative partners.
TVA and the 153 local power companies (co-op and municipal alike) have traditionally focused on our own core competencies…generation and transmission for TVA, and distribution for the LPCs. Each of the three competencies require unique skill sets and expertise.
So while the needs of today are beginning to blur the lines between generation and distribution, TVA and your cooperative partners remain inexorably linked through our history, common mission, and contractual relationship.
It is that shared mission I ask you to consider today.
Good organizations take the time to benchmark themselves against their peers, to evaluate the quality and effectiveness of its efforts. In the case of TVA, those peers are usually other large investor-owned utilities. I believe that many of the decisions you will consider tomorrow will be based on data that takes into account a comparison of this type.
Might I suggest to you that size alone is not the only measure for determining who is similar? Mission must also be considered as key factor. While TVA is unique as a government entity with the multi-faceted purposes of energy, environmental stewardship, and economic development – please hear me say that TVA is not alone in its mission to deliver wholesale energy at the lowest feasible cost while working to make the region the best place in the country to live, work and play.
Generation and Transmission Cooperatives share this purpose – 100%. And all across America, there are G&T’s who serve their communities in the way TVA serves our region. They collectively own and operative dams with hydroelectric generation, nuclear power plants, coal and gas facilities, and many G&Ts are aggressively promoting the implementation of renewable energy into the grid. In fact, TVA’s first CEO counted over 15 years of prior experience at one of the nation’s largest G&Ts -Oglethorpe Power Corporation in Georgia.
Co-op G&T’s should be an important source of resources, collaboration, benchmarking, and comparison for TVA staff and for you in your role as a Board member – particularly in the coming months and years as you seek new and innovative ways to fulfill our shared mission.
On behalf of TECA and our member cooperatives, we remain ready to work with you to ensure that TVA’s strategic direction remains focused on what is best for the people we jointly serve. They deserve nothing less. Thank you.