TVA and Energy Democracy






September 2, 2019                                                                                                                                             Home

In the mid 1930s, America was in the midst of the great Depression.  Much of rural America, including the Tennessee Valley, had no electric service.  Private business could not make a profit running electric lines to areas where so few people lived.  The federal government stepped in.  Interestingly enough, the same situation exists today with broadband.  Hancock and surrounding counties have been able to get high speed internet only because of state, federal, and Appalachian Regional Commission grants.

On May 18, 1933 the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created with the mission of providing electricity to homes and businesses in seven states, including the entire state of Tennessee.  In rural areas, rural electric cooperatives  were organized to provide electricity to members of communities.  These member-owned cooperatives were successful in placing power poles and stringing electric lines throughout the region – at a cost that was much less than what private companies would charge.  This happened because of member involvement.

Kingston Coal Ash spill the day after the event

Today there are 22 member-owned rural electric cooperatives in Tennessee.  Powell Valley Electric Cooperative (PVEC) provides power to Hancock County and parts of seven other counties in Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. PVEC’s power comes from TVA, and TVA determines the rate to be charged.

TVA has been in the news a lot lately.  The huge coal ash spill and cleanup in Kingston has resulted in major lawsuits for damage to property and compensation for personal injury and death to workers involved in the cleanup.  TVA continues to close fossil fuel-operated power plants.  Congressman Tim Burchett of Knoxville has introduced a bill in Congress to require meetings and subcommittee meetings of the TVA Board of Directors to be transparent and open to the public.

There is currently an Energy Democracy Tour traveling through the state of Tennessee.  At each event there is discussion of the history and impact of TVA, a look at how decisions are made by TVA, and talk about what can be done to create an energy system to better serve our communities.

Results from the 2019 Energy Democracy Tour

The next stop on the tour will be held at the Tazewell branch of Walters State Community College (1235 Claiborne Street, Room 204 in Tazewell) on Tuesday, September 3rd from 6-8 pm.  There is no charge to attend.  Food will be provided.

The tour is presented by PVEC Member Voices, Appalachian Voices, and Working Films.  For more information on the tour, go to 

And don’t forget PVEC has its annual meeting on Saturday, September 21, 2019 at Thomas Walker High School, 125 Bluegrass Drive in Ewing Virginia.  This is the once in a year opportunity for member-owners to get together, learn more about their electric cooperative, and exercise your democratic right to vote on a bylaw amendment for increased member involvement.  Activities start at 9 am, meal at 11:30 am, and business meeting (including vote) at 1 pm.

Everyone needs to learn more about our electric cooperative. For more information, go to

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