Volunteer State Communities Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions

State Overview

The population of the Volunteer State, Tennessee is approximately 7.13 million people. Tennessee is the 15th most populated state in the United States.

In 2022, Tennessee’s economy was ranked 16th in the United States in gross domestic product (GDP). The state’s economy is dependent on agriculture, automotive, manufacturing, insurance, and tourism industries.

Environment Policies

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

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

Power Generation Capabilities

In June 2023, utilities used nuclear power (47.9%), natural gas (22.2%), coal (19.5%), and renewable energy (10.4%) to generate electricity in Tennessee. Hydropower and solar are the dominant types of renewable energy used to generate electricity in the state.

In June 2023, the average cost of residential electricity in Tennessee was 12.42¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 16.11¢ per kWh.

Recent renewable energy developments in Tennessee include:

  • 35 MW Solar Project – In November 2022, Tennessee solar company, Silicon Ranch commissioned the Vanderbilt I Solar project, which is located approximately 50 miles southwest of the state capital, Nashville.
  • 20 MW Solar Project – In December 2022. Silicon Ranch commissioned a utility scale solar project at a site approximately 70 miles south-southwest of Nashville.
  • 5 MW Solar Project – In May 2019, Silicon Ranch commissioned a community solar project at a site approximately 175 miles east of Nashville.
  • 2.6 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. Coal was initially used to fuel steam engines for the railroad, stoves, and forges.

Tennessee’s last two coal mines stopped production of coal in 2020. The coal used to fuel Tennessee’s power plants is 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. In June 2023, 19.5% 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 documented to have leaked into the ground water around 241 coal-fired plants in America.
  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 real action to develop new renewable energy projects and 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, podcast, and television stations from New York City to Los Angeles on numerous energy issues.

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