What is the Tennessee Valley Authority?

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  • Written By: Constance Simmons
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is a federally owned corporation that is the United States' largest public power company. The Tennessee Valley Authority supplies power to its customers using plants that generate power from a variety of sources, including fossil fuels, nuclear and renewable sources such as water and solar power. In addition to providing power to its customers, the Tennessee Valley Authority also is responsible for developing the Tennessee Valley region by preventing flooding, insuring water quality and maintaining navigation of the fifth-largest river system in the U.S.

The Tennessee Valley was hit hard by the Great Depression, which began in 1929. The land in the valley was ravished by overfarming, flooding and deforestation, which eroded the topsoil and decreased crop yield and income in a region that was dependent upon agriculture. This led the U.S. Congress to establish the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to combat the substandard living conditions that many people in the region were experiencing. The goal of the Tennessee Valley Authority was to modernize the region through providing electricity, reducing flood damage, improving navigation and promoting economic development.


The Great Depression inspired the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, but it proved to be an effective agency well beyond the end of the depression. During World War II, it created the power necessary to produce planes and bombs to aid the country. Over the years, its effectiveness also is shown in the continued economic development of the Tennessee Valley. The TVA has evolved over time to increase its productivity and efficiency and, as a result, performs the valuable job of stabilizing energy prices in times of crisis and fluctuation.

Although there is debate in the U.S. over the effectiveness of federally owned industries, the Tennessee Valley Authority has continued to survive. Despite its origins as a federally backed company, the TVA no longer receives any U.S. tax dollars to fund its efforts in flood control, navigation, environmental protection and land management. The TVA still continues these activities, but the operational costs are covered by the revenue earned from selling power.

Providing wholesale power to municipal companies and directly serving large industries and government entities is the primary function of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Its service area includes parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia. The TVA keeps power prices down, which saves its customers money and attracts industries to the region, both of which continue to aid in the economic development of the areas that it serves.


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Post 2

The Tennessee Valley Authority is one of the few government agencies that is self-sufficient. Areas served by the TVA historically have some of the best power rates in the USA.

One thing TVA did was provide thousands and thousands of jobs to an economically depressed area that desperately needed the help during the Great Depression.

Ever heard of Oak Ridge and the work done there on the Manhattan Project? That was a TVA facility. So are some of the safest nuclear plants in the world. Those of us who live in areas served by TVA truly appreciate the reliable power, clean water and flood control the agency provides.

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