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.”