Repowering the US economy with clean jobs

(Originally posted on CleanTechnica)

Repowering the US economy with clean jobs must become a clear mandate for the US federal government. Before the COVID-19 crisis, millions of people in the US worked in clean energy. Clean energy is a major part of the economy of every state, employing workers in inner cities as well as rural areas, regardless of geography, politics. or natural resources. Small businesses—the essence of the US economy — are an integral part of clean energy employment. But despite how far the clean energy sector has come over the last 5 years, the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis is quickly devastating businesses, workers, and projects from coast to coast.

Will lawmakers step up to create stronger, cleaner economy in the future? That will require bold ideas, big initiatives, and commonsense policies at both the state and federal levels.

A call-to-action within a new report, “E2: Clean Jobs America,” shows why it’s imperative for lawmakers to focus on clean energy in economic stimulus packages and other policies aimed at restarting the US economy. Clean energy has been one of the US economy’s biggest and fastest-growing employment sectors over the past decade, growing 10.4% since 2015.

Read more here.

TAEBC member Qubits Energy shares workforce development challenges, opportunities

(Note: TAEBC is requesting small business members with workforce development challenges to please email Executive Director Cortney Piper to submit feedback on their unique circumstances and how to continue this conversation within the industry.)

As the world continues to embrace technology, the global workforce is having to make significant shifts to accommodate those rapid technological changes and fill those jobs of the future.

But what do companies do when they can’t find the right talent for these innovative jobs?

That’s exactly what Qubits Energy co-founder and president Ivan Ospina is facing right now in Tennessee, as energy companies in the Volunteer State are no exception to this challenge. He’s been looking to fill a few positions for his company to expand business opportunities across the country.

Qubits Energy was founded in June 2017 when Ospina and his co-founder Andrés Gómez, having both previously worked at Schneider Electric as engineers, decided to start their own small business in Tennessee as EcoXperts with Schneider Electric.

The company provides services and energy management technologies for critical power facilities such as microgrids, data centers, hospitals, airports and buildings by offering an integrated approach to critical power monitoring, energy controls, and buildings solutions. With over two decades of field experience working in power monitoring and building automation, Qubits Energy focuses on creating trusted applications for energy control and optimization, as well as buildings controls.

However, finding the right people to do this work hasn’t been easy. The recurring obstacle Ospina has run into is that electrical engineers graduating from colleges and universities today aren’t getting the vital IT and programming experience they need to work with modern energy management systems. The résumés he’s been receiving either have electrical engineering experience or IT experience, but rarely do they have both.

Ospina explained IT professionals know how to manage Windows servers, know how to set basic networks, and know how to load software into those servers. But they don’t understand how to read electrical information out of meters, bring it into a computer and make sense out of it.

Meanwhile for electrical engineers, Ospina said while they know how an energy meter works and know what power quality is, they don’t know how to setup and troubleshoot networks or communication protocols to bring information into a server. Because electrical engineers, at least the ones they’ve found here, didn’t have the IT experience to understand the programming and communication side of things.

Ospina has reached out to MTSU regarding this concern, offering to partner with the Career Center to help train students either by completing presentations or setting up classes to teach them what the industry is requiring.

“We’re looking for people who understand electrical systems but also understand the programming and IoT concepts required to do energy management, and that’s hard to find,” said Ospina.

Not all hope is lost. Ospina has been developing some new candidates, who are both mechatronics engineers. One is from MTSU and the other from Tennessee Tech. He’s been investing in intense training over the last two to three months with these candidates and traveling with them, but for small businesses like Qubits Energy, that costs a lot of money to extend training beyond a typical months-long process of getting new staff acclimated.

Ospina says in a perfect world he’d like to be able to call up a given university’s career department, tell them he’s looking for two engineers, have the university complete a basic pre-screening process, and then Qubits Energy can start interviewing candidates right away with at least the basic electrical and IoT concepts guaranteed.

“At Qubits Energy, we believe that through the use of modern technologies we can solve many community challenges, and by specifically implementing smarter electrical grids, our cities and the world could better manage our energy resources,” said Ospina. “We need multi-disciplinary engineers prepared to deploy IoT, software, connected devices and energy digitization as crucial components of a successful smart grid. Such an approach will produce a huge economic impact, ultimately benefiting our communities and protecting our planet’s natural resources by reducing its carbon emissions.”

TVA seeks public input on flexible power generation until May 4, TAEBC to submit comments

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has released a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) about its decision to allow local power companies (LPCs) to add flexible generation options. The utility is seeking public input on the draft until May 4, 2020. TAEBC intends to submit comments. If you have any questions or comments for TAEBC, please email TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper.

In February, the TVA Board of Directors approved a set of principles allowing the 138 LPCs that have signed long-term partnership agreements with TVA to generate up to 5 percent of their average energy needs for customer use. This locally generated energy could derive from solar, wind, biomass or other small forms of distributed generation.

TVA’s draft EA evaluates the potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts of two alternatives: no action and implementing the flexibility option. In the draft, TVA states the utility would benefit from the flexibility because “it would enhance the Valley’s energy resource diversity and would be responsive to customer demand for renewable energy resources.”

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy in Tennessee. This flexibility proposal allows local power companies to offer new renewable energy options to customers, which helps strengthen the role of advanced energy in the region.

Due to current federal work requirements due to COVID-19, TVA recommends the public submit comments electronically to ensure their review and consideration. Learn more about the flexibility proposal or how to submit comments here

TAEBC wants your feedback, highlights resources for small businesses during COVID-19 pandemic

During this time of crisis, TAEBC is continuing to champion advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy for the state and provide businesses and entrepreneurs with the resources they need to weather this storm. 

To start, TAEBC wants your feedback about what the industry needs to remain solvent and thrive. What could your business use or need in a second round of federal stimulus? Please send your feedback to TAEBC here by email.

“Even in these challenging times, TAEBC continues to champion advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy for the state,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC. “We are committed to our members and stakeholders in fostering the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups.”

As one of TAEBC’s missions is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups, we want to provide resources small businesses and entrepreneurs can use during this crisis. See the resources from Launch Tennessee (LaunchTN) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) below:

LaunchTN’s COVID-19 Updates, Resources and Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform
LaunchTN has created a special webpage which includes guidance from health officials, updates from statewide network partners, resources to support small businesses and startups, webinars and other virtual learning opportunities, and other information as needed. Browse the list of resources here.

LaunchTN is also partnering with Governor Bill Lee’s COVID-19 Unified Command to invite proposed solutions to the critical challenges the state now faces. Companies, including entrepreneurs and startups, are encouraged to submit proposals via the Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform, which will allow them to evaluate, perform due diligence and recommend selected solutions to state procurement specialists for fast-track treatment.

All innovators are invited to participate, regardless of whether they’re able to scale at the level needed right now. This long-term project will address immediate needs and continue to serve the state far into the future.

SBA Disaster Assistance
Tennessee small businesses are now eligible for disaster assistance from SBA. Businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic may apply for up to $2 million in federal assistance to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue. To learn more about the application process and loan parameters, click here. To apply, follow this link.

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to the CARES Act
The programs and initiatives found in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. There are many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain nonprofits and other employers. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that are available from the SBA to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of SBA.

TVA now accepting proposals for 200MW of renewable energy

TVA is now accepting proposals to develop 200 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy that can be brought online by the end of 2023. The deadline for proposal submissions is April 24. 

According to the Request for Proposal, the utility is interested in procuring up to 200 MW of new stand-alone renewable energy resources or renewable energy plus battery energy storage systems, including all the associated environmental attributes. 

TVA procured more than 1,300 MW on behalf of customers through similar requests for proposals in 2018 and 2019. According to the utility, large-scale solar costs 80 percent less than private-scale solar and delivers the best value for renewable energy across TVA’s seven-state service territory.

Recently, the TVA Board of Directors approved six flexibility principles in its February meeting that may grant local power companies the ability to buy or generate power on their own. Previously, TVA sought public input on the potential environmental impacts of a 150-MW solar project in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The power provider entered into an agreement with Elora Solar, LLC to purchase power generated by the proposed solar facility.

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy in the state. This move allows TVA to provide more clean, reliable energy for their customers.

The utility provider will announce the selected proposals in fall 2020. To review TVA’s RFP and submit bids, visit this link