Communities In The Volunteer State Push To Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

State Economy

The population of the state of the “Volunteer State,” Tennessee is approximately 7.00 million people[1]. Mississippi is the 15TH  most populated state in the United States.

In 2021, Tennessee’s economy was ranked 20th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP)[2]. The state’s economy is dependent on the agriculture, automotive, manufacturing, insurance, and tourism industries[3].

Environment Policies

Tennessee is one of only 13 states that has neither a renewable portfolio standard requirement nor a goal[4]. However, communities across Tennessee are making sustainable, green energy a priority.

  • Knoxville, the state’s 3rd largest city has set the goal of reducing 80% the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • Chattanooga, the state’s 4th largest city has cut energy use by 30% since 2013, achieving the greatest energy-use-intensity saving for any city in the United States.

In March 2022, Tennessee utilities[5] used nuclear power (38.5%), natural gas (25.3%), renewable energy (19.6%) and coal (16.6 %). Hydropower is the dominant type of renewable energy used to generate electricity in Tennessee.

In March 2022, the average cost of residential electricity in Tennessee was 11.49 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 14.47 ¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Tennessee include:

  • 35 MW Solar Project – Tennessee solar company, Silicon Ranch is continuing work on the Vanderbilt I Solar project, which is located approximately 50 miles southwest of the state capital, Nashville. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – Silicon Ranch is continuing work on a solar project at a site approximately 70 miles south-southwest of Nashville. The project is scheduled to be commissioned by year-end 2022.
  • 5 MW Solar Project – In May 2019, Silicon Ranch commissioned a community solar project at a site approximately 175 miles east of Nashville.
  • 64 MW Solar Project – In June 2020, the Chattanooga Airport commissioned a solar project which will provide all of the airport’s power from renewable energy.
  • 1 MW Solar Project – In August 2022, Canadian company Solar Alliance Energy commissioned a solar project in the city of Knoxville.


Coal mining began in Tennessee in the 1840s[6]. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, stoves, and forges.

In 2020, Tennessee had only two operating coal mines[7], which produced approximately 92,000  tons of bituminous coal. The coal used to fuel Tennessee’s power plants is now brought in rail and river barge from Illinois and Kentucky

In 2010, 52.9% of Tennessee’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants[8]. In March 2022, 16.6 % of the state’s electricity was generated from coal-fueled power plants. Why the decrease in the use of coal?

  1. Economics – The cost to generate power from natural gas or renewable energy is significantly cheaper than coal. The cost to generate electricity from coal-fired plants is over twice the cost of wind or solar.
  2. Environment – Coal ash, the product of coal burned in a power plant contains arsenic, mercury, and lead; which are toxic. In 2019, coal ash was reported to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America[9].
  3. Climate Change – Coal generates 40% to 45% more greenhouse gases than natural gas.

State and federal power companies in Tennessee have been slow to develop new renewable energy projects. However, cities and businesses across the state are taking tangible action to reduce to develop new renewable energy projects.

Communities in the Volunteer State are pushing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


Jack Kerfoot is a scientist, energy expert, and author of the book FUELING AMERICA, An Insider’s Journey and articles for The Hill, one of the largest independent political news sites in the United States. He has been interviewed on over 100 radio and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy related topics.


[1] Tennessee Population 2022, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis

[3] Biggest Industries in Tennessee  – World Atlas

[4] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, August 13, 2021

[5] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Tennessee State Profile and Energy Estimates,

[6] Tennessee Encyclopedia – Mining by James E. Finkle

[7] U.S. EIA – Tennessee State Profile and Energy Estimates, Energy Analysis – Coal, February 18, 2021

[8] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Electricity Power Sector Consumption Estimates, 1960-2018, Tennessee

[9] Reuters, “Coal Ash Contaminates Groundwater Near Most U.S. Coal Plants: Study” by Valerie Volcovici, March 3, 2019

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