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.”