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Tennessee   Tennessee Profile

State Profile and Energy Estimates

Profile AnalysisPrint State Energy Profile
(overview, data, & analysis)

Last Updated: May 18, 2017

Overview

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the largest public power provider in the nation.

Tennessee, home to many of the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) hydroelectric, nuclear, and coal electricity generating facilities,1,2,3 stretches almost 500 miles from North Carolina westward to the Mississippi River. The state's westernmost city, Memphis, is one of the world's busiest hubs for barge, air, truck, and rail cargo traffic.4,5,6 Wide bends in the Tennessee River divide the state into three regions: the largely mountainous east, the central basin rimmed by highlands, and the low, rolling plains of western Tennessee.7 Both the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River, which flows in an arc from Kentucky across north-central Tennessee, have histories of destructive floods.8 In the 20th century, a series of dams built by the TVA to control those rivers brought hydroelectricity to the region.9,10 The federal TVA is the largest public power organization in the nation and serves almost all of Tennessee and parts of six other states.11

Energy consumption among Tennessee's end-use sectors is fairly balanced, with transportation the largest consuming sector, followed by the industrial sector, the residential sector, and the commercial sector.12 Manufacturing leads the state's economy and includes making motor vehicles and automotive parts; food, beverages, and tobacco products; and chemical products.13

Tennessee's climate is relatively mild, but it is greatly influenced by the state's topography. Much of the state experiences hot summers and mild winters, except in the mountains, which are cooler at higher elevations.14 The residential sector, where both heating and air conditioning are prevalent, accounts for one-fourth of the state's end-use energy consumption.15,16,17 Overall, Tennessee's economy is a bit above the national median in the amount of energy consumed per dollar of state gross domestic product. Because the cost of electricity in Tennessee is below the national average, Tennessee, even with higher energy consumption, is at the national median in energy expenditures per person.18,19,20

Petroleum

The first commercial crude oil production in Tennessee occurred in 1866, but only minor amounts of crude oil have been produced in the state since then. In the past 33 years, crude oil production in the state has not reached 1 million barrels per year.21,22 Less than 0.01% of the nation's crude oil output is produced in Tennessee today, and the state has no significant proved reserves.23,24 However, much of the state remains unexplored.25

Tennessee has one petroleum refinery, located in Memphis, which can process about 190,000 barrels of crude oil per calendar day.26 The refinery receives its light, low-sulfur crude oil supply from a pipeline that crosses through western Tennessee on its way from the Gulf Coast to other refineries in the Midwest. The Tennessee refinery has access to the Mississippi River and can receive additional feedstocks shipped by river. The refinery's products include motor gasoline, diesel fuel, jet fuel, and petrochemicals. Refined petroleum products are shipped out by truck, barge, and a pipeline that delivers jet fuel directly to the Memphis airport.27 Tennessee also receives refined products from several pipeline systems that serve the state on their way from the Gulf region to the Northeast.28,29,30,31

Nearly three-fifths of petroleum used in Tennessee is consumed as motor gasoline.32 Motor gasoline sold in the Nashville and Memphis areas is reformulated to minimize formation of ground-level ozone.33 Little petroleum is used by the residential sector, where fewer than 1 in 200 Tennessee households use fuel oil or kerosene for home heating.34

Natural gas

Tennessee produces little natural gas, but the Chattanooga Shale in the eastern part of the state may hold substantial reserves.

Tennessee has no significant proved natural gas reserves and produces less than 0.02% of the nation's natural gas.35,36 Most of the state's gas-producing wells are clustered in northeastern Tennessee. Recent exploration for additional natural gas resources has focused on the Chattanooga Shale, which underlies the eastern part of the state.37,38,39 Tennessee's natural gas needs are met by almost a dozen interstate pipelines that supply the state as they pass through on their way to markets in the East and the Midwest.40,41

The industrial sector consumes the largest share of natural gas delivered to end users in Tennessee and accounts for more than one-third of state demand. Typically, about one-sixth of the natural gas delivered to consumers goes to the commercial sector and about one-fifth to the residential sector. Prior to 2010, the electric power sector accounted for less than 5% of the natural gas consumed in Tennessee, but natural gas use for electricity generation has risen since then. In 2016, the electric power sector consumed more than one-fourth of the natural gas delivered to customers in the state.42,43,44 About one-third of Tennessee households use natural gas as their primary fuel for home heating.45

Coal

Tennessee's estimated recoverable coal reserves comprise less than 0.1% of the U.S. total, and only bituminous coal has been mined there.46 However, sizable untapped lignite coal reserves also exist, in western Tennessee.47 Mining began in the 1840s to support the nascent steel industry and expanded in the 1850s as railroads were built across the state.48 Coal production in Tennessee peaked in 1972 at around 11 million short tons and has fallen since then, decreasing to less than 1 million short tons per year starting in 2014.49,50,51 The state had 10 coal mines operating in 2016, all in the northeast near the Kentucky border,52 which supplied less than 0.1% of the nation's total coal output.53

Tennessee uses 20 times as much coal as it produces. Most of the coal consumed in the state is used for electric power generation by the TVA.54,55 Tennessee's coal-fired power plants rely on subbituminous and bituminous coal delivered by railroad and river barge from other states, including Wyoming, Illinois, and Kentucky. Some Tennessee industrial facilities receive coal from Kentucky and Virginia.56 Almost all of the small amount of coal produced in Tennessee is shipped out of state.57

Electricity

Tennessee's 10 largest power plants are all operated by the TVA. The largest, the coal-fired Cumberland Fossil Plant, can generate 16 million megawatthours of electricity each year.58,59 Typically, coal-fired power plants generate about two-fifths of the electricity produced in Tennessee, nuclear plants account for one-third, and hydroelectric power provides about one-eighth of the state's net generation. Natural gas is supplying an increasing share of electricity generation, reaching one-seventh in 2016, as coal's contribution has declined with the retirement of some older coal-fired generators.60,61,62 Renewable technologies other than hydroelectricity contribute less than 2% of generation.63

Tennessee helped usher in the nuclear age with the nation's first nuclear fuel enrichment plant, built at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of the World War II Manhattan Project.64,65 Today, Tennessee has two TVA-owned nuclear facilities, the Sequoyah Nuclear Power Plant and the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant, both located in southeastern Tennessee.66,67 The Watts Bar power plant has the nation's newest nuclear power reactors. Watts Bar Unit 1 began operating in 1996,68 and Watts Bar Unit 2 entered service in 2016, becoming the nation's first new nuclear reactor in the 21st century.69 The TVA is also pursuing a federal site permit for a possible new nuclear plant using small modular reactors at a site near Oak Ridge.70 In addition to the 2 operating nuclear plants, TVA facilities in Tennessee include 19 hydroelectric dams and a pumped-storage plant, 6 coal-fired power plants, and 7 natural gas plants, including 2 combined-cycle plants. In total, the TVA facilities have a combined generating capacity of about 20,000 megawatts. The TVA owns more than 90% of Tennessee's electricity generation capacity and provides wholesale electricity to local power providers in almost all of the state's 95 counties.71,72

Tennessee is among the top five states in residential electricity consumption per capita.73 Average residential electricity prices place the state among the 10 states with the lowest prices in the nation, and three out of five Tennessee households use electricity as their primary source of energy for home heating.74,75

Renewable energy

The TVA’s Raccoon Mountain pumped storage plant is the third largest pumped storage unit in the nation.

Tennessee does not have a renewable portfolio standard, but the state has hydroelectric, biomass, solar, and wind energy potential76,77,78 and was an early leader among southeastern states in developing renewable energy.79,80 The TVA's 1,616-megawatt Raccoon Mountain pumped storage plant, which began operating in 1978, is the third largest pumped storage hydroelectricity facility in the United States, after plants in Virginia and Michigan.81 The southeastern region's first major wind farm, located on Buffalo Mountain near Oliver Springs, Tennessee, began operating as a 2-megawatt facility in 2000 and has since been expanded to 29 megawatts.82,83

Hydroelectricity contributes the largest share of renewable generation in Tennessee. With 109 hydroelectric turbines operating at dams on the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems, Tennessee is one of the top three hydroelectric power producers east of the Rocky Mountains. Hydroelectric generation varies with precipitation but has provided up to one-sixth of the state's total annual generation. In 2016, hydroelectric facilities contributed seven-eighths of the state's net generation from renewable sources.84,85,86 Biomass, primarily from wood and wood waste, contributes the second largest share of renewable generation and provided a little less than one-tenth of the state's net renewable generation in 2016.87 The TVA also uses methane gas from the Memphis wastewater treatment plant to boost generating capacity at one coal-fired power plant, and wood waste to add capacity at another coal-fired plant, increasing the two plants' capacities by a total of 15 megawatts.88,89

Solar photovoltaic (PV) facilities provided about 2% of Tennessee's renewable generation in 2016, a year when state solar generating capacity grew by one-third. The state's largest solar PV facilities are near the town of Selmer, Tennessee. At the end of 2016, two new solar farms with 24 megawatts of capacity began operating there, in addition to two existing solar farms that have a combined capacity of about 32 megawatts.90,91,92 More than half a dozen other solar projects are in various stages of regulatory review or construction.93 The state's largest industrial solar PV facility is an 8-megawatt installation at Volkswagen's Chattanooga assembly plant.94 The TVA operates eight small solar power facilities in Tennessee; the largest is a 97-kilowatt facility at Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tennessee.95 About two-fifths of Tennessee's net electric generation from solar PV in 2016 came from distributed (customer-sited, small-scale) facilities.96

Tennessee is the largest ethanol-producing state in the Southeast. The state, with its two ethanol plants, each capable of producing more than 100 million gallons of ethanol annually, is the 14th-largest ethanol producer in the nation.97,98 A third facility, a small cellulosic ethanol demonstration project, ceased operation at the end of 2015.99 Tennessee also has two small biodiesel plants that use a variety of feedstocks.100

Endnotes

1 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA Kids, The History of TVA, accessed April 6, 2017.
2 U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Tennessee Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed April 6, 2017.
3 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Tennessee, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015–September 2016), accessed April 6, 2017.
4 World Atlas, Tennessee, accessed April 6, 2017.
5 "Memphis: North America's Logistics Center," Inbound Logistics (October 2008).
6 Greater Memphis Chamber, Logistics, accessed April 6, 2017.
7 Scott, Lynne, "Climate of Tennessee," University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (December 4, 2012).
8 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Cumberland River, updated July 20, 1998.
9 Tennessee Valley Authority, Flood Prone Areas, accessed April 6, 2017.
10 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Tennessee, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015–September 2016), accessed April 6, 2017.
11 Tennessee Valley Authority, About TVA, accessed April 6, 2017.
12 U.S. EIA, State Energy Consumption Estimates 1960 through 2014, DOE/EIA-0214(2014) (July 2016), Tennessee Tables CT3–CT7, p. 456–60.
13 U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Regional Data, GDP and Personal Income, Begin using data, Annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by State, GDP in Current Dollars, Classification NAICS, All Industries, Tennessee, 2013, 2014, 2015.
14 Scott, Lynne, "Climate of Tennessee," University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (December 4, 2012).
15 U.S. EIA, Residential Energy Consumption Survey, 2015 RECs Survey Data, Tables HC6.8, Space Heating, and HC7.8, Air Conditioning, East South Central census division (February 2017).
16 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C5, Residential Sector Energy Consumption Estimates, 2014.
17 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C4, Total End-Use Energy Consumption Estimates, 2014.
18 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C12, Total Energy Consumption Estimates, Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Energy Consumption Estimates per Real Dollar of GDP, Ranked by State, 2014.
19 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 5.6.B.
20 U.S. EIA, U.S. States, U.S. Overview, State Total Energy Rankings, 2014.
21 Berwind, Marvin B., "The History and Development of the Oil and Gas Industry in Tennessee," Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science, Volume 62, Number 3 (July 1987).
22 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Field Production of Crude Oil, 1981–2016.
23 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Production, 2011–16.
24 U.S. EIA, Crude Oil Proved Reserves, Reserves Changes, and Production, 2010–15.
25 Hatcher, Bob, "Geology and Petroleum Resources of Tennessee and the Use of Fracking as a Drilling Tool," AICHE Monthly Meeting (April 18, 2013), Conclusions, p. 79.
26 U.S. EIA, Refinery Capacity Report 2016 (June 2016), Table 3, Capacity of Operable Petroleum Refineries by State as of January 1, 2016.
27 Valero, Memphis, Overview, accessed April 6, 2017.
28 U.S. EIA, Tennessee, Profile Data, Distribution & Marketing, accessed April 6, 2017.
29 Colonial Pipeline Company, About Colonial, System Map, accessed April 6, 2017.
30 Kinder Morgan, Products Pipelines, Southeast Operations, accessed April 6, 2017.
31 Marathon Pipe Line, Marathon Pipe Line LLC Operated Pipeline Systems (May 2015).
32 U.S. EIA, State Energy Data System, Table C2, Energy Consumption Estimates for Major Energy Sources in Physical Units, 2014.
33 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Gasoline Reid Vapor Pressure, updated December 5, 2016.
34 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Tennessee, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
35 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Gross Withdrawals and Production, Gross Production, Annual, 2011–16.
36 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Profile Data, Reserves and Supply, accessed April 6, 2017.
37 Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Oil and Gas Well Permits, updated April 6, 2017.
38 Sohn, Pam, "Stage Is Set for Fracking in Tennessee," Chattanooga Times Free Press (January 28, 2014).
39 "Carbon Natural Gas Targets Chattanooga Shale in TN," Marcellus Drilling News (April 5, 2017).
40 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Profile Data, Distribution and Marketing, Interstate Natural Gas Pipelines, accessed April 6, 2017.
41 U.S. EIA, About U.S. Natural Gas Pipelines, Natural Gas Pipelines in the Southeast Region, accessed April 6, 2017.
42 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Consumption by End Use, Tennessee, Annual, 2011–2016.
43 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Natural Gas Deliveries to Electric Power Consumers, 1997–2016.
44 U.S. EIA, Natural Gas Delivered to Consumers in Tennessee (Including Vehicle Fuel), 1997–2016.
45 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Tennessee, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.
46 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2015, and Table 15, Recoverable Coal Reserves at Producing Mines, Estimated Recoverable Reserves, and Demonstrated Reserve Base by Mining Method, 2015.
47 Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee's Mineral Industry, updated January 2017.
48 Jones, James B., Jr., "Coal Mining in the Cumberland Plateau, 1880-1930," National Park Service, updated September 30, 2008.
49 SourceWatch, Tennessee and Coal, History, accessed April 6, 2017.
50 Mining Artifacts, Tennessee Mines, accessed April 6, 2017.
51 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2014 (March 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2014 and 2013.
52 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Profile Overview, Coal Mine map layer, accessed April 7, 2017.
53 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 1, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Mine Type, 2015 and 2014.
54 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Report 2015 (November 2016), Table 6, Coal Production and Number of Mines by State and Coal Rank, 2015, and Table 26, U.S. Coal Consumption by End Use Sector, Census Division, and State, 2015 and 2014.
55 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2015 Data, Table 3_1_GeneratorY2015.
56 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by destination State, consumer, and destination and method of transportation, Tennessee, 2015.
57 U.S. EIA, Annual Coal Distribution Report 2015 (November 2016), Domestic distribution of U.S. coal by origin State, consumer, and destination and method of transportation, Tennessee, 2015.
58 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Electricity Profile 2015, Table 2A, Ten largest plants by generation capacity, 2015.
59 Tennessee Valley Authority, Cumberland Fossil Plant, accessed April 10, 2017.
60 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.4.B, 1.7.B, 1.9.B, 1.10.B.
61 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923), 1990–2015.
62 Tennessee Valley Authority, Coal, accessed April 10, 2017.
63 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.3.B, 1.11.B.
64 World Nuclear Association, Outline History of Nuclear Energy, updated March 2014.
65 National Park Service, Oak Ridge Site-Manhattan Project National Historical Park, accessed April 10, 2017.
66 U.S. EIA, Tennessee Profile Overview, Nuclear Power Plant map layer, accessed April 10, 2017.
67 Tennessee Valley Authority, Nuclear, accessed April 10, 2017.
68 Tennessee Valley Authority, Watts Bar Nuclear Plant, accessed April 10, 2017.
69 "Watts Bar Unit 2 Complete and Commercial," Tennessee Valley Authority, Press Release (October 19, 2016).
70 Flessner, Dave, "Nuclear Regulatory Commission to begin review of site for TVA nuclear plant in Oak Ridge," The Times Free Press (January 12, 2017).
71 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Tennessee, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015–September 2016), accessed April 10, 2017.
72 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2015 Data, Table 3_1_GeneratorY2015.
73 U.S. Census Bureau, State Population Totals Tables: 2010-2016, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2016 (NST-EST2016-01), 2016 Population Estimates.
74 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 5.4.B, 5.6.B.
75 U.S. Census Bureau, American FactFinder, Tennessee, Table B25040, House Heating Fuel, 2011–2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimate.
76 Tennessee Valley Authority, Integrated Resource Plan, Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (March 2015), p. 130–139, 147–153.
77 National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Dynamic Maps, GIS Data, & Analysis Tools, Solar Maps, updated July 18, 2016.
78 U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, WINDExchange, Tennessee Wind Resource Map and Potential Wind Capacity, updated September 24, 2015.
79 Tennessee Valley Authority, Renewables, accessed April 10, 2017.
80 Durkay, Jocelyn, "State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals," National Conference of State Legislatures (December 28, 2016).
81 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2015 Data, Table 3_1_GeneratorY2015.
82 Tennessee Valley Authority, Renewables, Wind, accessed April 10, 2017.
83 Tennessee Valley Authority, Power Out of Thin Air, accessed April 10, 2017.
84 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Detailed State Data, Net Generation by State by Type of Producer by Energy Source (EIA-906, EIA-920, and EIA-923), 1990–2015.
85 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Tennessee, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015–September 2016), accessed April 10, 2017.
86 Tennessee Valley Authority, Integrated Resource Plan, Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (March 2015), p. 46–47.
87 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Tables 1.10.B, 1.11.B, 1.15.B.
88 "Turning Memphis Wastewater into Energy," Tennessee Valley Authority, Press Release (February 19, 2017).
89 Tennessee Valley Authority, Integrated Resource Plan, Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (March 2015), p. 150.
90 U.S. EIA, Electricity, Form EIA-860 Detailed Data, 2015 Data, Table 3_1_GeneratorY2015.
91 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 6.3, 6.5.
92 Solar Energy Industries Association, State Solar Policy, Tennessee Solar, accessed April 10, 2017.
93 Tennessee Valley Authority, Environmental Reviews, Power Generation–Solar and Other Renewables, accessed April 10, 2017.
94 Schelzig, Erik, "Volkswagen powers up 33-acre solar park in Tenn.," USA Today (January 23, 2013).
95 Tennessee Valley Authority, TVA in Tennessee, Fiscal Year 2016 (October 2015–September 2016), accessed April 10, 2017.
96 U.S. EIA, Electric Power Monthly (February 2017), Table 1.17.B.
97 "U.S. Ethanol Plant List, All Platforms, Existing," Ethanol Producer Magazine, updated February 14, 2017.
98 Nebraska Energy Office, Ethanol Facilities' Capacity by State, Ethanol Facilities Nameplate Capacity and Operating Production Ranked by State, updated October 20, 2016.
99 Erickson, Melissa, "DuPont closing Vonore biorefinery," The Daily Times (December 24, 2015).
100 "USA Plants, Existing," Biodiesel Magazine, updated December 12, 2016.