A Senate subcommittee heard from the deputy director of operations at Oak Ridge National Lab on Tuesday, along with President Trump’s three other nominees to the board of the Tennessee Valley Authority.
In his opening statement, Jeffrey Smith pointed to his experience having already worked with TVA. Smith told senators that the Oak Ridge lab and the utility have partnered on several projects to recruit new companies to the region, and those conversations share a key factor.
"I can tell you that low-cost, clean — and that 'clean' comes up more and more often these days — and reliable power is always a consideration in site selection," he said.
All four candidates emphasized the importance of clean energy, including Kenneth Allen, a retired coal company executive from Kentucky who acknowledged the U.S. would continue its shift towards other power sources.
This is in line with TVA's current strategy, despite President Trump's promise to revive the coal industry. The utility's chief executive said this summer that TVA plans to place more of an emphasis on natural gas and nuclear energy, while phasing out half of its coal plants, according to Bloomberg.
Smith is the only Tennessee nominee among the four. The other two, James "Skip" Thompson and A.D. Frazier, are from Alabama and Georgia, respectively.
Tennessee’s two U.S. senators fully endorsed Smith, stressing his expertise in clean nuclear energy and experience running a large organization with a $1.4 billion budget and nearly 5,000 employees. If appointed, Smith would serve on TVA’s nine-member board until 2022. All four nominees must be confirmed by the full Senate.