Submit nominations for the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards!

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are accepting nominations for the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards (TSTAs) from now until Friday, June 19. Winners will be honored at the Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo later this year. Submit your nominations here.

The TSTAs recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of the state’s transportation systems. In the judging criteria, TDEC and TDOT ask nominees to provide information about how their project addresses one or more of the following areas:

  • Innovation: How the project utilized new thinking or creative approaches to meet a particular transportation challenge
  • Best Practices and Replicability: How the project demonstrates a transferable solution, such that others could adopt or implement similar programs or initiatives
  • Changes in Transportation Behavior: How a project worked to encourage or achieve changes in transportation behavior in order to make a transportation system more efficient
  • Improvements to Public Health, Resilience, and Safety: How a project creates improvements to public health, well-being, or safety in a given community
  • Equity and Access: How the project provides sustainable transportation benefits to all community members and creates accessible mobility solutions for diverse audiences

Regarding eligibility requirements, all project must:

  • Eligible entities include federal, State (excluding divisions under TDEC and TDOT), and local governments; commercial, non-profit, and industrial organizations; public and private institutions of higher education; and utilities.
  • Projects must be located within or have occurred in Tennessee. A project that is part of a regional or national initiative must have a significant Tennessee nexus.
  • Projects must have been completed in the last five years. 
  • Nominees must have a minimum of three consecutive, current years of exceptional environmental compliance with TDEC.
  • Applicants must agree to allow a summary of their accomplishments to be published by the State of Tennessee and/or the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Projects that were awarded a TSTA in the past may not be awarded again, unless significant changes to the project have occurred in the interim.

TAEBC recently heard from TDEC Commissioner David Salyers at our Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub, where he discussed how the state is moving swiftly to promote electric vehicle adoption and increase charging infrastructure availability.

Check out the list of 2019 TSTA winners here. If you have questions about the TSTAs, please contact OEP Senior Program Manager Alexa Voytek at Alexa.Voytek@tn.gov or 615-532-0238.

TAEBC Annual Meeting 2020 highlights transportation electrification initiatives, advanced energy leadership

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) held another successful Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub earlier this month.

TNECD Commissioner and TDEC Commissioner Featured speakers included Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

The event kicked off with TAEBC awarding Dan Hurst, CEO and founder of Strata-G, with the second-ever Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award, which honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Last year, the inaugural award went to Ballard himself.  

“As a founding board member of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, Dan Hurst embodies the qualities of a servant leader,” said Cortney Piper, Executive Director and Vice President of TAEBC. “His dedication and commitment to building a new organization that represents an entire industry that makes Tennessee a better state in which to live, work and play is truly admirable. That same vision and devotion have enabled Dan to lead and grow a successful business in East Tennessee that embraces energy innovation, environmental stewardship and sustainability.”

Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Power Products, Emily Heitman, welcomed TAEBC to Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub and reinforced the company’s commitment to doing business in Tennessee. Her presentation was followed by Piper, who outlined TAEBC’S top achievements in 2019 and emphasized the organization’s goals and priorities moving into 2020. 

Next, Silicon Ranch Corporation’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations. Since launching Regenerative Energy with one 52-acre project in 2018, the program has grown exponentially with 31 projects on 5,923 acres throughout five states this year.

On TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network Panel, Helge Nestler, Founder and President of Ginko Technologies, pitched his startup and mission to accelerate the use of sustainable waste treatment methods to reduce landfills and recover energy from waste. Afterwards, he was joined by Ira Weiss, Energy Mentor Network Entrepreneur-in-Residence and principal of Weiss Associates, for a panel discussion about Nestler’s entrepreneurial journey and value of the Energy Mentor Network program for startups like Ginko Technologies.

Later, Drew Frye, Senior Power Utilization Engineer at TVA, spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state. In addition to providing a 10-year snapshot of the role of EVs from 2010 until now, Frye highlighted TVA’s role with Drive Electric Tennessee and what is next on the horizon for TVA, including improving charging infrastructure, enhancing consumer awareness, promoting supportive EV policies, and ensuring EV availability. 

Commissioner Salyers also spoke about Drive Electric Tennessee and the continued development of a statewide EV charging network. He reinforced TDEC’s commitment to providing a cleaner, safer environment and support for technologies that reduce emissions and improve air quality. Through its electrification efforts, “TDEC seeks to improve transportation efficiency, reduce vehicle emissions, and strengthen the resiliency of the transportation sector.”  

“Our vision for Tennessee is to become a leader in the electric transportation space,” remarked Salyers. “Electric vehicles have the potential to make our transportation system both more efficient and more resilient. We are excited to continue working alongside our fantastic partners to achieve these benefits.”

During Commissioner Rolfe’s TNECD update, he emphasized how the agency’s “first job” is to create high-quality jobs for Tennesseans. His second job, explained Rolfe, is to make sure the companies that call Tennessee home “are happy,” such as Volkswagen, Nissan, and others who are focused on EV efforts. 

“We’re going to focus on recruiting companies to Tennessee that are focused on the electric vehicle business because we think it’s here to stay,” said Rolfe. “For Tennessee to remain number one in the southeast, we’re going to be doubling down on those efforts.”

After their presentations, Saylers and Rolfe held a joint Q&A session, where they answered a range of audience questions. For example, when asked what TAEBC can do to support the state’s efforts in propelling electrification efforts further, Saylers emphasized the importance of workforce development programs that promote technical training for jobs that support the state’s advanced energy economy.

Rolfe echoed Sayler’s statements, adding, “a lot of good things are happening in Tennessee, but what we can continue to do is to make it the most inviting, business friendly state to come do business in.”

ORNL and TVA to collaborate on advanced reactor technologies

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) have signed an agreement to explore a new generation of flexible, cost effective advanced nuclear reactors. According to the agreement, the two organizations will work to boost the economic feasibility of possibly licensing, building, operating, and maintaining one or more advanced nuclear reactors, such as a small modular reactor.

These reactors offer the potential for lower-cost, carbon-free energy due to shorter construction times and increased operational flexibility. Recently, federal regulators approved an early site permit for TVA’s small modular reactor capable of generating 800 megawatts on the Clinch River in Oak Ridge.

This partnership continues decades of collaboration between ORNL and TVA. Speaking about this new partnership, TVA President and CEO Jeff Lyash remarked that it “supports TVA’s mission for innovation and will allow us to better explore potential future nuclear technologies that benefit the 10 million people across seven states and help lead nuclear energy’s future in the United States.” 

ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia emphasized that nuclear energy has long been a “key component” of the country’s energy portfolio and that “growing demand for emission-free electricity requires that we innovate to ensure safe, affordable and efficient nuclear power for generations to come.”

According to the memorandum of understanding, specific areas of importance that will be evaluated by the two entities include, but are not limited to:

  • Development of advanced construction techniques
  • Evaluation of integrated development activities for site infrastructure support
  • Development of various economic deployment catalysts
  • Innovation of advanced manufacturing technologies
  • Use of technology deployment to meet regulatory and safety requirements more efficiently

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy in Tennessee. This collaboration allows both organizations to help nuclear generation play a stronger role in providing clean, reliable energy for TVA’s customers.

TVA to reshape agreements with local power companies, approves six flexibility principles

During its February 12 meeting, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors approved six flexibility principles that may soon grant local power companies the ability to buy or generate power on their own.

These principles will grant more flexibility to the 154 municipalities and power cooperatives that purchase TVA’s power and sign long-term agreements with the utility. Under these principles, the organizations will have the right to buy or generate up to 5 percent of their power (or 1 megawatt for small distributors) from sources other than TVA.

“This is certainly significant in that we’ve never done this before,” said TVA President Jeff Lyash. “But we recognize that the industry is changing with technology and customer demands to both keep electric rates low while moving to cleaner energy sources.”

According to TVA, the board adopted the following six principles

  1. Energy resource sites must be documented, metered, operated, and connected in a manner consistent with applicable TVA standards.
  2. Valley Partner energy resources will either displace demand and energy usage that TVA would have otherwise charged to the Valley Partner under the prevailing wholesale power rate structure; or, Valley Partner energy resources will be treated in accordance with an economically equivalent wholesale crediting mechanism.
  3. Each Valley Partner may deploy energy resources in an aggregated capacity amount not to exceed the greater of (1) 5% of that Valley Partner’s energy, where energy is the average hourly capacity usage, initially over TVA fiscal years 2015 through 2019, or (2) one megawatt of aggregated capacity.
  4. All Valley Partner energy resource facilities must be distribution scale and located within the service territory of the Valley Partner. Exceptions to the location requirement, due to circumstances such as restrictive siting, may be approved by the CEO after notice to the Finance, Rates, and Portfolio Committee.
  5. Valley Partner energy resource output must be provided or distributed only to the Valley Partner’s end-use customers.
  6. A Valley Partner’s energy resource implementation must be consistent with TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan to ensure that TVA’s system carbon position is improved.

This decision comes after 135 of TVA’s 154 municipalities and cooperatives have signed 20-year power purchase contracts, with Chattanooga’s EPB signing the agreement last month and Memphis Light Gas and Water still studying whether or not to sign. 

TVA is looking to develop more of its own utility-scale solar generation, recently announcing it is boosting its solar energy capability by 44 percent from 2019 by adding 284 megawatts of new contracted solar generation from five new projects in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

Former House Speaker and ETSU president nominated to TVA board

President Donald Trump announced his intent to nominate former Republican Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell and East Tennessee State University (ETSU) President Brian Noland to the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Board of Directors.

According to TVA, board members are nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. Each member serves for five years. 

Harwell became the first female speaker of the house in 2011. Since losing a race for governor in 2018, she has been working in the private sector and teaching classes, including one at Middle Tennessee State University.

Senator Lamar Alexander released a statement about Harwell’s appointment, saying, “I have encouraged and admired Beth Harwell and her style of leadership since she began her career in public service. Throughout her time in the Tennessee House of Representatives, and as Speaker of the House, Beth has worked with the TVA on several issues. She understands that TVA’s mission is to continue to provide cheap, clean and reliable electricity throughout the Tennessee Valley, and I know her leadership will be a valuable asset to the TVA board. I am glad President Trump nominated her, and I look forward to her confirmation by the United States Senate.”

Noland has been the president of ETSU since 2012. Previously, he was the chancellor of the West Virginia Higher Education System.

Alexander also championed Noland’s appointment in a formal statement, stating, “Brian is a respected leader in East Tennessee, and during his tenure as president, he has helped transform Tennessee’s fourth largest university, East Tennessee State University. His administrative experience makes him the right person to help keep TVA on a good path – to continue to provide clean, cheap, reliable electricity at the lowest possible rates for homes and businesses through the seven-state Tennessee Valley region. I hope the Senate will quickly consider his nomination and look forward to his confirmation.”