Volkswagen, UTK, and ORNL to create innovation hub at UT Research Park

Volkswagen, the University of Tennessee, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have partnered to create the automaker’s first innovation hub in North America. The hub will be located at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Key stakeholders recently held a press conference at UT Research Park to announce the collaboration and hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. 

According to the official press release, the collaboration involves research opportunities for doctoral students with initial work focused on creating lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, electric vehicles, and other innovative automotive pursuits. 

Randy Boyd, President, University of Tennessee speaking

“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, VW’s executive vice president and chief engineering officer for the region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”

Volkwagen first partnered with the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, when it opened its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. In late 2019, the automaker broke ground on a $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. 

TAEBC welcomes advanced energy solutions and partnerships like the innovation hub. This opportunity reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in the country, as previously stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner.

Rebates offered to local power companies in exchange for signed long term TVA contract

Cheaper power is being offered to municipalities and power co-ops across TVA’s jurisdiction, so long as they agree to sign 20-year contracts with the federal energy company.

Last year TVA approved a budget plan suspending further wholesale rate increases while also offering a 3.1% monthly rebate to any of the 154 TVA distributors that sign these contracts.

Since October 2019 more than 80% of TVA customers have signed the 20 year agreements to receive electricity from this company. This period of service is greater than the previous agreements period. Under TVA’s latest $10.6 billion spending plan, the federal utility ends the six-year-long pattern of base rate increases.

Local power companies who do choose to sign these contracts are also granted the flexibility to either develop or purchase up to 5% of their electricity from other sources, including renewables.

However, some of the largest power companies in TVA’s jurisdiction have not yet signed these contracts, and they include Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga, and Huntsville, Alabama. These account for nearly half of TVA’s operating revenue.

Memphis Light, Gas & Water (MLGW) is studying what would be the benefits and risks of leaving TVA and whether it can save money doing so. This study won’t be completed until May 2020, and a MLGW spokeswoman has cited no decisions will be reached until that comprehensive outlook is done.

It should be noted, Nashville Electric Service so far is the only one of TVA’s largest customers that has signed TVA’s 20 year contract. Nashville leaders are looking for its own deal with TVA regarding this matter, as Music City’s mayor John Cooper announced in early December that he will be negotiating with the federal utility for more advanced energy options for Nashville’s municipal buildings.

TVA released its latest IRP last year, detailing plans on how best to meet future electricity demands over the next 20 years.

7 trends to watch in the energy industry in 2020

(Originally published on Interesting Engineering)

What energy trends should you keep an eye on in 2020? These 7 promise to be some of the most exciting.

Which country uses the most renewable energy?

Many countries around the world are pushing forward with adopting renewable energy technology. But which ones are ‘all in’?

According to sites like clickenergy.com.au, the top 12 “most renewable” countries include:

  • Iceland
  • Sweden
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • The United Kingdom
  • Germany
  • Uruguay
  • Denmark
  • China
  • Morocco
  • The USA
  • Kenya

How much renewable energy did the US use in 2019?

The United States is one nation that is investing heavily in renewable energy, and 2019 was no exception. With energy generation and distribution a matter of national security, any means of helping maintain energy independence should be welcomed.

According to the Energy Information Administration, 2019 saw good growth in renewable adoption.

“EIA forecasts that utility-scale renewable fuels, including wind, solar, and hydropower, will collectively produce 18% of U.S. electricity in 2019 and 19% in 2020.” – eia.gov.

Which energy trends should you watch in 2020?

1.     Energy storage and better batteries – The ‘Achilles Heel’

The main ‘Achilles Heel’ of the most popular sources of renewable energy is their lack of reliability. Solar PV isn’t very useful at night and wind power needs the wind to blow.

For this reason, a means of “making hay when the sun shines” is vital to ensure the future of renewables in the energy mix. Much work has already been done to develop better and longer-lasting batteries, as well as other means of storing any energy generated from renewable sources.

2020 should be no exception, with energy industry leaders pushing to develop and promote better energy management and storage. This will also require greater grid flexibility to allow energy firms to balance supply and demand in a highly variable market.

Consumers are becoming ever-more savvy with how they chose energy suppliers, meaning “the invisible hand” of the market should continue to be the main driver for change. Commercial consumers are also pushing hard to source their energy from more diverse and renewable sources.

An integral part of good energy management is viable and reliable storage systems and, by extension, batteries. 2020 should be an exciting year for new developments in this area, with companies like Tesla, Eos, Sonnen, and  Vivint Solar being some to keep an eye on.

Read more here.

Applications for USDA REAP energy audit, renewable energy development assistance grants due January 31

The Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) recently opened its “Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance” grants (EA & REDA), to support rural small businesses and agricultural producers in the evaluation, implementation, and utilization of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies.

EA & REDA funds can support energy audits, renewable energy technical assistance, and renewable energy site assessments. Eligible projects costs may include salaries related to an EA or REDA project; travel expenses directly related to conducting EA or REDA projects; office supplies; and administrative expenses, which include, but are not limited to, utilities, office space, and operation expenses of office and other project-related equipment.

Applicants must submit separate applications, limited to one EA project and one REDA project per fiscal year. The maximum aggregate amount of an EA & REDA grant per applicant in a Federal fiscal year is $100,000.

Applications for EA & REDA funds are due to REAP by January 31Click here to learn more and to apply for REAP financial assistance. Click here to find the REAP point of contact for your Tennessee region.

Remembering TAEBC’s 2019 accomplishments, what to expect in the new year

As the new year looms upon us and we welcome a new decade, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is celebrating its 2019 achievements.

By championing advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy, TAEBC is positioning the state and its members to increase our leadership role in the $1.4 trillion global advanced energy market.

TAEBC wants to reinforce our commitment to our members and stakeholders:

  • Inform the national energy agenda.
  • Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
  • Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups.
  • Support TVA and our local power companies’ efforts to become the energy companies of the future.

We look forward to our annual membership meeting in Franklin, but until then let’s reflect on our top accomplishments from 2019.

  1. SkyNano and Active Energy Systems became the third and fourth graduates from the Energy Mentor Network. The companies were part of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads cohort one, where they are now recognized as honored alumni.
  2. TAEBC held its Annual Membership Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee at Schneider Electrics headquarters. TAEBC members, stakeholders and supporters heard from Schneider Electric’s Vice President of Utility & Microgrid Solutions Don Wingate, who touched on the new energy landscape emerging with more microgrid implementation happening across the United States. Attendees also heard from Chris Hansen, TVA’s Director of Pricing Strategy & Origination, who spotlighted the energy company’s efforts to meet renewable energy expectations of Google and Facebook for new data centers the companies were constructing in the Valley. Both global giants are known for their commitments to sustainability and clean energy.
  3. During the annual meeting, renowned Tennessee collaborator and partnerships builder Tom Ballard received the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award named in his honor. The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. TAEBC announced the Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award will be an annual award, accepting nominations every year and presenting the winner with the honor at future annual meetings.
  4. TAEBC had a full calendar year filled with events that engaged both members and stakeholders alike including:
    1. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper, Michael Garrabrant with Stone Mountain Technologies and Launch Tennessee executives were at Tennessee’s Capitol Hill earlier this year for Innovation Week on the Hill, connecting entrepreneurs and innovators with legislators to discuss key challenges facing small businesses.
    2. The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted a new “Ask Me Anything” event that gave attendees the opportunity to “ask anything” from some of the most well-known energy CEOs in the state, including Matt Kisber of Silicon Ranch Corporation. The “Ask Me Anything” session provided intimate, candid discussions between attendees and energy CEOS where attendees could “ask anything” related to business, strategy, work-life balance and everything in between.
    3. TAEBC held a Lunch & Learn with TVA board member Jeff Smith and new TVA CEO Jeff Lyash to discuss what they envisioned in the future for the energy company and giving members the opportunity to have an open dialogue with TVA leadership.
    4. The Energy Mentor Network’s mentors had an opportunity to meet the Innovation Crossroads recently inducted third cohort, where they heard pitches from the energy startups. The event also featured a panel discussion with the Innovation Crossroads’ cohort one alumni as they gave updates on their businesses and what their experience was like in Innovation Crossroads.
    5. Launch Tennessee, in partnership with Life Science Tennessee and the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, invited our Energy Mentor Network mentors and companies to an evening of networking in appreciation for the mentors’ generous service to the Mentor Networks.
  5. TAEBC’s Utility Relations Committee met with TVPPA, TVIC, & AVI to present Tennessee’s advanced energy asset inventory.
  6. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper met with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander’s office staff in Washington, DC to present a briefing on Tennessee’s robust advanced energy economy which employs more than 358,000 Tennesseans, contributes $39.7B to the state’s GDP, and includes more than 18,000 businesses.
  7. TAEBC Executive Director & Vice President Cortney Piper also met with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development deputy commissioners and senior staff, new Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s staff, various TVA leaders, and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation staff to educate them on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy and present an asset inventory briefing.
  8. Opportunities in Energy 2019, presented by Verizon, featured a presentation from Majid Khan, Managing Director of Strategy & Business Development from Verizon to talk about 5G and the future of energy in our region and the nation as a whole. 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.
  9. Welcome New Members: AVI, East Tennessee Economic Council, Giridhar Iyer, Johnson Energy Solutions, Piper Communications, Smart Trips, Stone Mountain Technologies, Verizon and XMI.
  10. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA in April regarding, at the time, its draft 2019 IRP. TVA’s Board of Directors approved the 2019 Final Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) later in the year. TVA updated its previous IRP to allow for a more dependable and flexible power-generation system that effectively leverages more renewable energy sources and distributed energy resources. According to the 2019 IRP’s Executive Summary, TVA found:
    • There is a need for new capacity in all scenarios to replace expiring or retiring capacity.
    • Solar expansion plays a substantial role in all futures.
    • Gas, storage and demand response additions provide reliability and/or flexibility.
    • No baseload resources (designed to operate around the clock) are added, highlighting the need for operational flexibility in the resource portfolio.
    • Additional coal retirements occur in certain futures.
    • Energy efficiency (EE) levels depend on market depth and cost-competitiveness.
    • Wind could play a role if it becomes cost-competitive.
    • In all cases, TVA will continue to provide for economic growth in the Tennessee Valley

As an added bonus two TAEBC board members, Steve Seifried and Mary Beth Hudson, wrote op-eds on Tennessee’s thriving advanced energy economy.

Happy Holidays from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!