TAEBC’s 2020 Opportunities in Energy event emphasizes importance of transportation electrification and advanced energy efforts

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted its annual Opportunities in Energy event virtually this week. The event featured TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe, a panel discussion about making Tennessee the destination for the electric vehicle supply chain, and preview of the upcoming Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the festivities by providing an overview of TAEBC’s mission and accomplishments in 2020. She spoke about challenges the state faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how Tennessee is uniquely positioned to capitalize on transportation electrification to help with economic recovery efforts 

“Transportation electrification and advanced energy could and should be used as job creation and economic development opportunities to help us rise out of our current crisis,” she said.

Commissioner Rolfe spoke about the importance of recruiting original equipment manufacturers to the Tennessee region, Tennessee’s automotive accomplishments, and the Drive Electric Tennessee initiative. He emphasized that the state is committed to becoming an electric vehicle transportation leader in the southeast.

After his presentation, Commissioner Rolfe was joined by John Hopkins, CEO of IACMI; Mike Swords, Vice President of Government Affairs and International Relations at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator; and moderator Tom Rogers, President and CEO of the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, for a panel session, “Tennessee’s EVolution: Making the state a destination for the electric vehicle supply chain.” 

Panelists spoke about the importance of electrification efforts, areas of opportunity, and important steps the state can take to accelerate its goal to be the top state in the country for electric vehicle manufacturing. Answering a question about how Tennessee can reach this goal, Commissioner Rolfe said, “The short answer is to recruit, recruit, and recruit.” 

“When we are recruiting, we want to showcase what Tennessee’s great strengths are,” he continued. These strengths include low business taxes, a high quality of living, affordable housing, and being considered one of the most “business friendly states” in the country. 

During the discussion, Swords spoke about a $150 billion federal stimulus proposal by the Transportation Electrification Partnership and LACI. TAEBC signed on to this proposal in July. Swords complimented Tennessee on its investment in transportation electrification. 

“It seems like there really is an aggressive push to achieve some of these big strategic goals for the state and it sounds like you are being quite successful so far,” said Swords. 

Afterward, Piper moderated a panel discussion about the 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report with Matt Murray, Director of Howard H. Baker Jr. Center; Amy Henry, Director, Transformative Innovation at the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Marc Gibson, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research at University of Tennessee. 

Murray started with an overview of the 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report and discussed the process for creating it. Speaking about the 2018 report, Murray said the advanced energy economy has been “remarkable in terms of its economic performance.”

“The advanced energy sector in Tennessee is growing at a much more rapid pace than other segments of the economy and at a faster rate than the economy as a whole,” said Murray. According to the 2018 report, employment in the sector grew by 10.3 percent, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3 percent, since 2013. 

Panelists discussed the importance of this data and how the report can help further advanced energy opportunities in the state. Answering a question about how vital institutions such as UT and TVA can use this data, Gibson explained, “This data is critical for us. We look at it holistically.” 

“I think if we can create that ecosystem and develop something that is statewide, we can make something that is very attractive for industry and others to look at the state of Tennessee as a landing spot,” said Gibson. “We want to be right in the middle of that. I think we have a responsibility to the state and really the region to do that.” 

Missed or loved the event? Watch the recording here and TNECD’s “Tennessee’s Electric Vehicle Evolution” video here.

PYA launches Ballard Innovation Award

Knoxville-based PYA recently launched a $50,000 Ballard Innovation Award in honor of Tom Ballard, PYA’s Chief Alliance Officer and long-term ally of the East Tennessee entrepreneurial community. In a video announcing the award, PYA Director of Business Alliances referred to Ballard as “the king of entrepreneurship.” 

According to PYA’s announcement, the Ballard Innovation Award competition is open to any early-stage company in the East Tennessee region that has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue. Applications will open in January 2021 and an award presentation for the top three finalists will take place in March. Here are applicant qualifications for the award:

  • Is located in the geographic East Tennessee area (33 counties as defined by the state of TN) – metro areas include Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Tri-Cities;
  • Has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue (as outlined);
  • Has achieved between $5,000 and $50,000 in monthly recurring revenues (annualized revenues of between $60,000 – $600,000 and must be “non-grant” revenue from independent customers);
  • Has a business plan to optimize existing business operations by reducing costs, increasing revenues, and/or gaining new efficiencies;
  • Can demonstrate clear innovations that will improve the business;
  • Has a focus on empowering the consumer to become more informed and engaged.

“To say that the ‘PYA Ballard Innovation Award’ was totally unexpected when I was told about it in early November would be a gross understatement,” wrote Ballard in Teknovation.biz about the award. He continued, writing, “More businesses need to get off the sidelines and in the game, helping innovative companies succeed in their communities, and I am so honored to be associated with PYA which is doing its part to help grow the technology, innovation and entrepreneurial assets of this region,.”

In 2019, TAEBC awarded Ballard the first-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. 

“Without Tom Ballard, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council would have never grown to the level of success it experiences today,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC. “It’s impossible to measure Tom’s impact on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy with words alone, and for that reason he is most deserving of having an award being named in his honor.”

Learn more about PYA’s Ballard Innovation Award competition here and watch the announcement video below.

Register for Opportunities in Energy 2020!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council will host its annual Opportunities in Energy 2020 event on December 8, 2020, beginning at 3:00 pm EST. This virtual event will feature TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe as we discuss making Tennessee a destination for the electric vehicle supply chain and an Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report preview.

Confirmed speakers  include:

  • Bob Rolfe, TNECD Commissioner
  • John Hopkins, CEO, IACMI
  • Mike Swords, Transportation Electrification Partnership/ LA Cleantech Incubator
  • Tom Rogers, President and CEO, UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm
  • Matt Murray, Director, Howard H. Baker Jr. Center
  • Amy Henry, Director, Transformative Innovation, TVA
  • Marc Gibson, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research, University of Tennessee

Last year, Opportunities in Energy featured Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy and Business Development at Verizon, at The Square Room at Market Square in Downtown Knoxville. Khan spoke talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole. Learn more about the 2019 event here.

Register for Opportunities in Energy 2020 here! We hope to see you there.

TAEBC Lunch and Learn with TVA emphasizes advanced energy priorities for the Valley, importance of transportation electrification efforts

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted a virtual Lunch and Learn with the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Jeannette Mills, Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer, on November 18. Mills was joined by three other special guests from TVA: Dan Pratt, Vice President of Customer Delivery; Amy Henry, Director of Transformative Innovation; and Aaron Melda, SVP of Transmission Power Supply and Support.

Mills drives TVA’s vision and execution for relationships with customers, communities, government officials, stakeholder groups, and regional industry. She also oversees TVA’s economic development activities and its role as regulator. Jeannette came to TVA in February 2020 with over 30 years of commercial and regulatory experience in the energy, utility, and consumer services sectors.

During her presentation, Mills spoke about TVA’s advanced energy priorities, COVID-19 response efforts, economic development work, long-term partnerships, and Flexibility Option. She discussed the ways advanced energy serves as an economic development driver in Tennessee. Areas include the lithium ion battery market driving original equipment manufacturer expansion (OEM); TVA’s generation mix and renewable solutions encouraging recent electric vehicle (EV) and EV OEM announcements; and economic development partnerships with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Speaking about Flexibility Options for local power companies (LPCs), Mills discussed a few notable flexibility projects and said TVA believes the initial 3-5 percent flexible generation enabled through the option is “a starting point to learn together with the LPCs.”

“We’re really excited about this new component of flexibility and so are our local power companies,” said Mills. “We believe the flexibility projects are a win-win for everybody.”

Regarding EVs, Mills reiterated TVA’s approach to accelerate EV adoption through partnerships to remove market barriers in key areas: charging infrastructure availability; EV availability and offerings; innovative and supportive policies; and consumer awareness. She mentioned the TVA Board of Directors recent approval of a new commercial rate structure to promote the expansion of EV charging infrastructure.

“The growing EV market is a significant opportunity for TVA and the Valley as a whole,” she said.

Looking ahead at TVA’s transformative innovation initiatives, Mills outlined the six key technologies: storage integration, EV evolution, grid transformation, connected communities, advanced nuclear solutions, and decarbonization options.

At the close of her presentation, Mills invited attendees to register for the “2019 IRP Near-Term Action Update” on December 9 from 12:30 to 3:00 p.m. EST. The virtual event will provide an update on the progress on near-term actions in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan. Topics include TVA’s fleet, grid transformation, energy usage and renewable energy. Register here.

During the Q&A session, Mills was joined by Pratt, Henry, and Melda. Panelists answered questions on a wide variety of topics, including how TVA plans to transform the grid in the next few years and TVA’s Community Care Fund, which provides matching funds to address hardships created by the pandemic in families and communities. They also answered several questions on the topic of EVs.

“EVs are a perfect sweet spot in the Valley for the three Es we talk about,” said Pratt, highlighting the energy, economic development, and environmental benefits of EV growth in the state. “The Valley is perfectly situated to help this EV technology grow and expand.”

Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC, provided closing remarks by thanking panelists and attendees. She discussed TAEBC’s Op-Ed, “Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy” and the organization’s commitment to working with TVA and other stakeholders and desire to serve as a resource and partner in pursuing advanced energy strategies.

“We are in a very unique position to use energy again as an economic development and job creation strategy to pull us out of this recession,” Piper said. “And as an organization, we believe advanced transportation, specifically, which would include electric vehicles, has great, great potential.”

Missed or loved the event? Watch the recording or view Mills’ presentation.

TVA, Origis Energy to power Google data centers with 100% renewable energy

(Originally published on The Chattanoogan)

The Tennessee Valley Authority said Monday that the new 100-megawatt solar facility in Obion County, Tn. will supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers in Clarksville, Tn. and Hollywood, Al.

Florida-based solar developer Origis Energy is using TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program to develop the solar farm.

“The Green Invest program helps customers like Google meet their long-term sustainability goals with new renewable energy projects,” officials said. “In the past two years, Green Invest has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in TVA’s service area.”

“TVA’s Green Invest can deliver clean, reliable renewable energy at a competitive price – stimulating growth across our seven-state region and giving our region a competitive advantage through public power,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables.

Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Origis Energy will own and operate the plant, using industry leading land stewardship techniques. The project will create more than 300 construction jobs, with additional employment for eight to10 fulltime operations and maintenance staff. Origis plans to have the solar facility operational by the end of 2022, pending environmental reviews.

“This Tennessee solar milestone is another demonstration of the success of TVA’s Green Invest partnership,” said Johan Vanhee, Origis Energy chief commercial officer and chief procurement officer. “Such utility innovations are helping Google reach its aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030. We are very pleased to add 100 megawatts to this goal while contributing to the economic development of Obion County.”

To power the data centers, Google had already purchased a total of 266 megawatts of power generated by multiple solar farms linked into the TVA electric grid.

“Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and our goal is to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030,” said Reid Spolek, with Data Center Energy Strategy at Google. “Working with TVA and Origis through Green Invest will help move us closer to this goal.”

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of four other major Green Invest deals TVA completed this year: General Motors, Vanderbilt University, Knoxville Utilities Board and Facebook.

“TVA is a job creator, and we are looking for creative ways to use our solar programs to bring high-paying jobs to the communities we serve,” said Mr. Hansen. “By integrating public-private partnerships with clean energy, we can make our region the premier destination for businesses that want to achieve their sustainability goals.”