Powering new growth: Advanced energy sector grows in Tennessee

(Originally published: Chattanooga Times Free Press)

In the 20th century, the Tennessee Valley Authority helped harness the power of the Tennessee River and Oak Ridge National Laboratory propelled America’s “atoms for peace” program by helping give birth to nuclear power.

As new forms of energy gain favor in the 21st century, Tennessee remains a powerful force in developing and building new means of energy production and use, ranging from solar and wind power to electric cars and energy-efficient buildings and appliances, according to a new study of the advanced energy business in Tennessee.

Although energy consumption is slowing and jobs in traditional energy utilities are declining with new efficiency measures, those losses are more than offset by the growth in other energy sectors. Indeed, an economic study by the University of Tennessee found that advanced energy industry jobs are growing faster than Tennessee’s overall economy and have created nearly 360,000 jobs, most of which pay above-average salaries.

UT researchers estimate that around the globe advanced energy is a $1.4 trillion industry, including any technology that makes energy or transportation cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient. That’s almost twice the size of the global airline industry and nearly equal to worldwide apparel revenue.

In Tennessee, advanced energy includes solar, wind and new nuclear and gas technologies along with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, lightweight composites in the automotive industry, natural-gas fueled trucks, bioenergy, pollution-control equipment, smart grids, combined heat and power, high-performance buildings, more efficient industrial technologies, and power reliability.

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