Speakers shared exciting advanced energy news from around the state at annual event, presented by Verizon

This year’s Opportunities in Energy virtually brought together leaders from all areas of Tennessee’s growing advanced energy economy. For its eighth annual event, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council was pleased to welcome numerous insightful speakers to share exciting developments about their organizations and the advanced energy sector.

The Future of Networks

TAEBC is grateful to Verizon for serving as the presenting sponsor of Opportunities in Energy. Susan Peluso, Director, Product Strategy at Verizon, kicked off the event by speaking about amplifying and accelerating 5G, mid-band spectrum, network design, digital transformation journey, value across businesses, how 5G can supercharge the electrical grid and the Verizon Foundation in Tennessee.

“5G will open up a platform for innovation that will dramatically improve our global society,” said Peluso.

Cleantech Accelerators in East Tennessee

The Cleantech Accelerators in East Tennessee panel featured Tricia Martinez, Managing Director of the Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator, John Bruck, Director of the Spark Innovation Center, and Dan Miller, Program Lead at Innovation Crossroads. Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC, moderated the discussion.

Panelists shared exciting updates, including the news that the Spark Cleantech Accelerator is now accepting applications and that Techstars is opening a location in downtown Knoxville for its first group set to begin in late February 2022. Innovation Crossroads revealed it is reviewing applications for its sixth cohort. The three also answered questions about the future of Knoxville being home to advanced energy innovation, technology and startups.

“The true focus around science-driven technology is here. That’s why industry and investors will follow,” said Martinez. “I have no doubt in my mind that together, if the community can come together and work on this, we will be the leading hub for industries of the future, cleantech, advanced materials and things that will really make an impact on this world.”

How to Meet Corporate ESG Goals

For the next panel session, TAEBC Board Member Steve Seifried, Tennessee Account Executive for Ameresco, moderated a discussion with Nicole Bulgarino, Executive Vice President at Ameresco, Adam James, Environmental Coordinator at Tennsco, and Lisa Lujan, Environmental, Health, & Safety Manager of Clayton Homes about how organizations can meet their corporate ESG goals with advanced energy.

James and Lujan explained why their organizations are committed to meaningful, lasting ESG change, while Bulgarino spoke about trends and developments Ameresco is seeing in the corporate ESG space.

“They’re having a comprehensive plan and looking at the entire portfolio from how they’re using energy to supplying energy and even water for that matter,” said Bulgarino speaking about how Ameresco’s customers and partners are holistically approaching ESG. “It’s smarter to do it that way because you’re going to get a bigger impact on your emissions goal and what you’re able to do.”

2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report

TAEBC released its 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report earlier this year. Dr. Jilleah Welch, Research Associate at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, went over the report’s findings, while retired Director Matt Murray joined for audience Q&A.

“The advanced energy sector in Tennessee is outperforming the overall economy,” said Murray. “It’s providing earnings that are substantially above the statewide average earnings across all sectors of the economy. It’s a prime candidate for focus in terms of economic development activities to further take advantage of this sector.”

Blue Oval City

Wrapping up this year’s programming was a panel about Ford’s Blue Oval City announcement outside of Memphis. Chassen Hayes, Director of Business Development at the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, moderated a conversation with Gabby Bruno, Regional Director of Government Relations at Ford, Ray Knotts, Sr. Manager of Commercial Energy Solutions at the Tennessee Valley Authority, and Mark Herbison, President and CEO of HTL Advantage.

Panelists spoke about the economic impacts of this massive electrification investment, Tennessee’s commitment to becoming a leader in the electric vehicle supply chain, why Ford chose Tennessee, the long journey that led to the announcement, workforce development and Ford’s commitment to electrification, among other topics.

“I can tell you that the race to electrification is on and it’s heating up exponentially. By 2030, we expect 40% of our global mix to be fully electric,” said Bruno. “One of our largest constraints is batteries. That’s why we’re ramping up our battery cell capacity. These investments in Tennessee and Kentucky – the battery plant in Tennessee and the two in Kentucky – will support an additional 1 million units of EV production annually.”

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TAEBC showcases East TN as a cleantech hub at annual “Opportunities in Energy”

Contacts: Melissa Tindell, 865-974-0741, mtindell@tennessee.edu; Jennifer Sicking, 865-974-5179, jsicking@tennessee.edu; Hannah Whitson, 423-408-4203, hannah@piper-communications.com

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (December 8, 2021) — At today’s Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) eighth annual Opportunities in Energy event, John Bruck, director of the UT Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center, announced the opening of applications for the Spark Cleantech Accelerator.

The Spark Cleantech Accelerator is recruiting early-stage, high-growth potential companies that aid the development of decarbonization and other technology solutions targeting the climate crisis while simultaneously supporting Tennessee’s advanced energy and circular economies. Applications are open for the program through March 11, 2022 and the first cohort of the accelerator will begin in June. 

The accelerator will provide co-working space at the UT Research Park, an equity-free stipend and access to prototyping facilities at UT to help accelerate the participants’ progress during a three-month period.  Additionally, entrepreneurs will have access to investor and mentor networks with cleantech industry expertise and the opportunity to participate in events held by Spark’s regional partners including the Clean Energy Trust. This comprehensive set of services will assist in participants’ commercialization of their technologies in Tennessee and throughout the Midwest. 

Participating companies will be encouraged to consider relocating permanently to Knoxville, which was recently ranked as the No. 16 cleantech hub in the country, according to venture firm Saoradh Enterprise Partners.   

The launch of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator makes the Knoxville/Oak Ridge region the only location in America to host three high-profile, energy-focused business accelerators. The Spark Cleantech Accelerator is supported by a combination of strategic partners including the City of Knoxville, University of Tennessee, the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, Tennessee Valley Authority, The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council and the U.S. Department of Energy. 

“The City of Knoxville is proud to host and support the newest accelerator in East Tennessee’s rapidly growing startup scene. Supporting breakthrough clean energy technologies with accelerator programs is an important component of growing our innovation economy, retaining top talent and asserting Knoxville’s leadership role as a clean-tech hub,” Mayor Indya Kincannon said. “The City welcomes opportunities to engage with Spark innovators to help meet my administration’s goal of reducing emissions 80 percent across the community by 2050.”

“Our investment in the Spark Cleantech Accelerator will build on the work Tennessee has been doing to launch advanced energy businesses and create an innovative holistic approach to supporting entrepreneurs,” said Randy Boyd, president of the University of Tennessee. “We are grateful to be part of de-risking technology development and identifying market opportunities that drive both economic growth and environmental impact.”

Recent reports from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council show Tennessee’s advanced energy and cleantech industries are thriving, making it the ideal location for early-stage companies to launch solutions that will accelerate the state’s transition to a new, clean energy economy. Nearly 394,000 Tennesseans are employed in the sector at more than 20,000 businesses that contribute approximately $46 billion to the state gross domestic product.

TAEBC’s end-of-year virtual event also featured panels on a wide range of advanced energy topics, including the Blue Oval City, how to meet corporate environmental, social and governance goals and a presentation of the 2021 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

For more information about the Spark Cleantech Accelerator click here. 

About Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council

TAEBC champions advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy. Advanced energy is technology neutral and includes electricity and transportation. Anything that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is in the tent. No other entity in the state concentrates specifically on this robust sector. We educate public officials and business leaders about Tennessee’s advanced energy economy, establish strategic partnerships to connect assets with opportunities, and inform policy that expands and strengthens the industry. For more information, visit: https://tnadvancedenergy.com/

About University of Tennessee

The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Pulaski, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 11,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 400,000 alumni around the world.