Verizon 5G use cases, energy transformations headline TAEBC Opportunities in Energy annual event

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council’s annual, year-end “Opportunities in Energy” event welcomed Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development at Verizon to the stage at The Square Room at Market Square in Downtown Knoxville to talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole.

Khan articulated Verizon is the first in 5G, and how the telecommunications company is committed to deploying 5G across more cities and across the state of Tennessee, as well as the economic development and job creation benefits that are tied to this critical infrastructure.

This next generation network has been launched in 20 markets already, including Memphis with more Tennessee cities in consideration, and it’s creating an exciting transformation in the utility and generation sector.

Pictured: Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development at Verizon

But in order to successfully deploy 5G, it’s not all about speed and throughput anymore. There’s lots more to consider including reliability, low latency, and proximity. It’s a network that while still being understood in its entirety, it’s creating immense opportunities.

“We want to make sure everyone understands 5G is new,” said Khan. “We’re still learning as an industry, we’re learning with our customers, we’re learning with the industry partners, and together we’re finding success. But by no means are we saying we have all the use cases defined and everyone has the answer. We’re early in the cycle, so we’re learning together.”

Khan stated real-time edge-base critical application is going to be key, and brought up the company’s recently announced partnership with Amazon Web Services to improve 5G speeds. So if Verizon can do that in a commercial environment, like with Amazon, the same thing can be applied in an energy and utility sector.

So how do you actually deploy 5G? Khan said there are four elements that the company has come up with. And if a city is missing one of these elements, the chances of them deploying it aren’t as likely.

  1. Fiber. Bottom line more fiber infrastructure is needed for 5G to be successful. In Memphis, there’s an initiative to place fiber both aerially and in the ground.
  2. Spectrum. The greater the frequency, the higher the bandwidth, and the lower the latency means 5G is more likely to be deployed. Verizon noted their looking at both high-bandwidth and mid-bandwidth locations as well.
  3. Software defined networks. A lot of 5G relies on virtualization and software networks ability to route your traffic.
  4. Real-estate & multi-access edge compute. Where do you actually house this massive amount of equipment? Utilities play a large role in that because they own the assets that Verizon needs to deploy 5G. So partnerships with, for example, KUB, MLGW, and NES are critical.

Verizon has invested in billions of dollars worth of investment in fiber companies, as they want to be the first in 5G and they realized thats what it would take to deploy that fiber.

Verizon’s goal is to serve every type of customer that exists inside the marketplace, whether that be small and medium businesses, government customers, state-level agencies, and utilities. All of those customers are going to need this fiber infrastructure. Some will be served through 4G/5G assets and some will be served with direct wire line activity.

Khan brought up the many use cases where 5G will be critical including the implementation of smart cities, autonomous transportation and connected vehicles, smart homes, energy & utilities, improving the healthcare industry, among others.

To build a better network for utilities, there must be an optimized, streamlined, and accelerated process. Early conversations with those utilities and governing officials are also critical. Khan mentioned that when Verizon is deploying their assets, about 40 to 50% of those assets are going on utility-owned assets. So educating their partners on what they’re planning on doing, what’s their timeline, and what exact infrastructure will be deployed, whether that be pole replacements or pole attachments or others, is vital to the success of 5G deployment. And above all else ensuring that when the equipment is installed, it’s not disrupting existing customers.

A panel discussion moderated by Dr. Greg Peterson, Professor & Department Head at the University of Tennessee in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, with Khan, Greg Thompson, Senior Manager of Smart Grid Services and Digital Engagements at Schneider Electric, as well as with Gary Brinkworth, Director of Enterprise Research and Technology Innovation at TVA focused primarily on the opportunities and challenges of how 5G can impact the energy landscape here in Tennessee.

Brinkworth commented on how TVA is interested in how 5G can help them and their local power companies (LPCs) to deploy more sensors, analysis and analytics at the grid-edge.

Specifically how can TVA deploy more sensors further out into their network and then successfully pull back into its control centers that information and do it at a speed that’s approaching real-time, so TVA can make real near-time decisions or allow the system to make those decisions that maintain reliability and resiliency for the broader grid. Asking, how does TVA enable that generation and transmission system that they’ve been operating for more than 80 years and how do they make it smarter and more responsive.

Thompson brought up that while enabling utilities and TVA with the devices to facilitate 5G successfully is important, so is including the end customer into this transition of energy. He mentioned how Schneider has been working with facilities, homes, and industrial locations to bring them in to this transformation. Schneider sees 5G as an opportunity to bring more of those sensor points and control applications in and bring in more of an energy-as-a-service type of model to the industry.

He also brought up the “prosumer” who is not only buying energy from a LPC but also generating their own energy at the same time. So as one is bringing the customer into the transaction, communications are critical. One also needs the utility to understand how the building is operating, connecting buildings to the grid, and connecting vehicles to the grid, and all those become a more complex prosumer type of a model. Mentioning responsiveness is also important and control applications because the grid needs to make decisions for its own health. So consumers must be brought into that.

Khan added in timing and echoed the importance of planning and coordination in minimizing disruption because at the end of the day it’s the people that matter. Advocacy is also crucial and public safety in addressing cybersecurity threats and ensuring reliability.

Education was also mentioned during the panel, particularly the importance in informing the public, from the workforce to the end-user, so they’ll be ready for the 5G transition.

Brinkworth said TVA recognized the education piece is an issue for them as the industry evolves and is becoming more technologically advanced with increasing digitization. TVA has been working to expose those in college to the energy transformation as well as how they’re training their people, especially in its transmission operations group, giving them different types of training of the digital transformation.

Thompson emphasized how their customer base isn’t used to that level of connectivity. So a lot of the education for them is explaining what the real value is for customers to transition and ensuring their security, minimizing their risk, and making sure there’s no disruptions.

Khan said Verizon has received feedback from some of the places they’ve been considering launching 5G requesting creating community outreach programs. Verizon has been working with utilities to ensure awareness is being raised with their customers about what 5G’s benefits are and the use cases.

Drive Electric Tennessee Needs Assessment Released for Statewide Charging Infrastructure

Drive Electric Tennessee published the Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment in November, following the release of the first edition of its Electric Vehicle Roadmap on January 18, 2019. The Roadmap set a goal to boost EV adoption to 200,000 by 2028 and identified projects and initiatives local stakeholders can implement to increase EV adoption statewide. 

The purpose of the assessment was to analyze the state’s current electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and find where new chargers should be placed to promote the continued adoption of EVs. According to the assessment, the main questions explored in the project include:

  • What is the coverage, usage, and state of repair of current charging infrastructure in Tennessee?
  • What are the plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) charging infrastructure needs in the state to support goal of 200,000 PEVs in Tennessee by 2028?
  • What gaps exist between the current infrastructure and future infrastructure needs?

To address these questions, the executive summary of the assessment is divided into four parts. According to the summary, the scope and key takeaways from each of these four parts are as follows:

  1. Baseline Light-Duty Assessment: In a research study of available data complemented by a field survey of 48 charging sites across the state, the assessment discovered:
    • 87 percent of surveyed charging sites were fully operational, matching public data from Plugshare.
    • There are opportunities for improvement with both user and host experience.
  2. EV Charging Use Case Tracks: Navigant’s VAST network siting optimization tool was used to identify potential geographic areas for charging infrastructure in order to meet the 200,000 EV goal. The assessment produced two maps of potential geographic areas for EV charging infrastructure to support deployment goals, which are:
    • Fast charging network map: Concentrated on or near corridors and high demands sites.
    • Level 2 charging network map: Complementary stations at fast charging sites and the majority of remaining use case tracks. 
  3. Use Case Prioritization: Through an evaluation of charging use cases based on market attractiveness and social impact, the assessment found that:
    • Primary market charging sites are more likely to attract private investment.
    • Corridor and secondary market sites may not attract private investment and are good candidates for public funding.
    • Multi-family sites are both attractive to private investment and have high social impact.
  4. Program Benchmarking: Data was collected on demographics, market development, utility programs, state EV policy, and outreach efforts across state and utility programs with attributes most relevant to the Tennessee market. The assessment found:
    • Broad stakeholder support is important to increase EV adoption.
    • Education and outreach efforts are important to successful programs.
    • Utility investment in make-ready infrastructure and EV rates are common in utility programs.

As TAEBC wrote earlier this year, advanced energy solutions, such as the adoption of clean transportation solutions, present economic development and job creation opportunities for the state. This newly released assessment highlights the value of moving forward with EV projects outlined in the Roadmap and establishing Tennessee as a powerhouse for EV manufacturing and use.

This goal was realized in November, when Volkswagen broke ground on its $800 million EV expansion at its Chattanooga plant, which will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the region.

TAEBC wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council has been reflecting on what we’re thankful for as Tennessee’s advanced energy sector continues to grow, creating jobs and economic development opportunities for the state.

Advanced energy is technology neutral. Any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is welcome at our table.

Our footprint expands to every corner of the state, and Tennessee’s advanced energy industry is well-positioned to strengthen at a robust pace. Other than our members, here’s what we’re thankful for this holiday season:

#1 Launch Tennessee & The Energy Mentor Network

We’re grateful for the opportunity to collaborate alongside Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that supports entrepreneurs from ideation to exit, to form the Energy Mentor Network.

The Energy Mentor Network’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry specific expertise.

In broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

We’re pleased to say four energy companies, Stone Mountain Technologies, Solar Site Design, Active Energy Systems and SkyNano have graduated from the program with several more on track.

(Interested in becoming a mentor for the next energy innovator? Click here. Are you a Tennessee energy startup and want to apply to the Energy Mentor Network program? Click here.)

#2 The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

TAEBC is committed to help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, in line with state leadership goals.

TNECD is working hard to make Tennessee a business friendly environment that not only attracts new companies to our state but also promotes growth for our existing businesses that call Tennessee home.

TAEBC has met with TNECD leaders outlining how our advanced energy sector employs nearly 360,000 Tennesseans in more than 18,000 businesses that contribute almost $40 billion to the state’s GDP. Advanced energy is a job-creation engine for Tennessee, and Tennessee’s advanced energy sector is growing faster than the overall state economy by a significant margin. 

#3 Increased federal support for energy research and development investments

Congress has continued to see the value in providing record funding for the Office of Science, one of the most important Department of Energy programs that support the work of our country’s 17 national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Office of Science supports basic science and energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences. For years, Congress has known and understood more comprehensive energy R&D funding means more economic development opportunities and high-quality jobs for Americans and Tennesseans. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!

Volkswagen breaks ground on electric vehicle expansion at Chattanooga plant

Volkswagen recently broke ground on its $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. Construction is projected to take 17 months and hiring will begin at the end of 2020.

Around 200 company and auto industry representatives, state and local officials, plant employees, and members of the media gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony on November 13.

“This is a big, big moment for this company,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, in a prepared statement. “Expanding local production sets the foundation for our sustainable growth in the U.S. Electric vehicles are the future of mobility and Volkswagen will build them for millions of people.”

The factory expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop and another 198,000 square feet for an assembly site for the vehicles’ electric battery packs. Tom du Plessis, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga said the plant is expected to produce over 100,000 electric vehicles (EVs) a year, with the possibly for 200,000, depending on the market.

Volkswagen currently produces its midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga facility. Production for its EVs should begin in early 2022, where the first model will be an all-electric crossover based on the I.D. CROZZ Concept. It will be the first EV produced in the country using Volkswagen’s MEB platform.

This Volkswagen groundbreaking also further reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America, as stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner. Rolfe was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Our goal is to be at the forefront of all electric vehicle manufacturing and the suppliers that will wrap around.”

TDEC issues RFI on light duty ZEV supply equipment

On November 1, 2019, TDEC issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit program design feedback for the forthcoming solicitation under the Light Duty Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Supply Equipment category.

TDEC also plans to leverage program design insights from Drive Electric Tennessee’s Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment, which is expected to be published on TDEC’s Drive Electric Tennessee webpage. TDEC encourages respondents to review this Needs Assessment when compiling feedback.

View the Light Duty SEZ Supply Equipment RFI here

Respondents may submit information in response to some or all of the questions contained within the RFI (Section 5: Information Requested, pages 7-12). Responses should be transmitted electronically to in PDF format and must be received by 4:00 pm CT on December 6, 2019. TDEC will conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of all responses.

TDEC will continue to release solicitations for funding under the VW Settlement EMT in the coming months. Interested persons are advised to sign up for the TDEC VW Settlement email list at to be kept apprised of all future and related announcements. For additional information on the VW Settlement, visit the TDEC website here: here to learn more about TDEC’s project solicitations under the VW Settlement EMT.