Power for the People, Not for the Profits

We’re lucky to have some of the most low-cost, reliable electricity in the nation. Public power is an important and vital partnership between TVA, your local power company and you—and it matters now more than ever. Here’s why.

It’s all around you right now and yet you aren’t thinking about it. You’re likely using it to help you read this right now. It’s also helping to keep you comfortable—is an air conditioner or heating unit humming in the background?

It's energy, and in the Tennessee Valley, we are fortunate to have some of the most reliable and affordable electricity in the nation.

The week of Oct. 7 is Public Power Week, a time set aside to celebrate the many ways public power has changed the face of our region.

Your parents or grandparents may have known a time before TVA electricity came to their home. If you’ve seen pictures from early last century, you know life was quite a bit different. Homes were heated by wood; kerosene lamps provided light; and many of the things we enjoy today—such as watching TV—were not even on the horizon.

On May 18, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the TVA Act and forever made public power a reality for the Tennessee Valley. Poles were soon placed in rural areas, bringing electricity to mountaintops and hollers the private companies said were too cost-prohibitive to touch. Cities around the Valley were given tools to grow and recruit new businesses.

Public Power Partnership

Public power remains a partnership between TVA, your local power company and you. This partnership enables reliable and affordable service, with continual enhancements to the electric system. It gives you a voice in how your money is spent and the transparency of public meetings gives you a say in our future. It guarantees your interests are put first.

At TVA, the public power partnership extends beyond electricity and into the community. TVA plays a key role in bringing new jobs to our region through a robust economic development program. We ensure that recreation areas along the Tennessee River and its tributaries are safely managed through our role as an environmental steward for our region. And of course, we work continuously finding ways to bring cleaner energy sources into the Valley.

In short, TVA's mission envelops the three Es—energy, environment and economic development, providing the Tennessee Valley with a powerful, holistic package of benefits that touch every aspect of how we work, live and play.

TVA's 3-E Mission

Energy Environment Economic Development

TVA generates more than half of its energy from carbon-free sources and delivers it through 154 local power companies to nearly 10 million consumers with 99.999 percent reliability at prices lower than nearly three-quarters of the nation.

TVA manages for 293,000 acres of public land entrusted to its care and harnesses the Tennessee River system for power production, flood control, navigation, water supply, water quality and recreation—nearly $12 billion worth yearly.

In 2017 alone, TVA partnered with local, state and regional agencies to generate $8.3 billion in corporate investment and 70,000 new jobs for the Tennessee Valley, and was for the 13th time named among the top 10 utilities in the nation for economic development. 

I’ve often wondered what President Roosevelt would think of the Tennessee Valley today. We’ve grown a lot; we’ve provided power, jobs and recreational opportunities for the people we serve.

I think he’d approve. Service is the one thing that hasn’t changed through the years. The thousands of men and women who bring reliable power to your home and office are still committed to serving you. We strive every day to fulfill the expressed purpose for TVA—to make life better for the people of the Tennessee Valley. We remain committed to this mission because we ARE the people of the Valley.

The employees of your local power company and TVA hope you will join us in celebrating the history and future of public power. It has truly made a difference for those of us who call the Valley home and we are dedicated to ensuring it does so for generations yet to come.

—Pat Ezzell, TVA Historian

Public Power Week


The Father of Public Power

Boyish in appearance but hardheaded and knowledgeable, David Lilienthal—one of TVA's founding directors—built the power system according to one guiding principle: affordable energy for everyone in the Tennessee Valley region. Read about his rich legacy.

How TVA Changed Lives

On the occasion of TVA’s 85th anniversary, early employee Halie Forstner, 107, recalls how TVA changed lives and spread prosperity to one of the poorest places in the nation. Watch her powerful video.

The Great Compromise

In August of 1959, a deal hammered out between free-enterprise Republicans and public-power Democrats established “the fence” and gave birth to TVA as we know it today. Read more about it.