TAEBC reflects on 2020 accomplishments

As 2020 draws to a close, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is taking a look back at its accomplishments over the last 12 months.

This year, Tennessee’s advanced energy economy was booming. We stood alongside our members and stakeholders as they celebrated business milestones, received countless awards for sustainability and business accolades, funding for advanced energy innovations, and expanded and broke ground on new facilities.

At the same time, we recognize that 2020 has been a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in these uncertain times, TAEBC has continued to champion advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy for Tennessee. We believe that Tennessee has an opportunity during this economic downturn to add jobs and become a leader in the advanced energy economy. That is why we are committed to keeping our members and stakeholders informed by sharing the latest news concerning Tennessee’s expanding advanced energy ecosystem.

TAEBC’s commitments to you, our members and stakeholders, remain as strong as ever. These commitments are:

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

Here’s some of the ways TAEBC championed advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy in 2020. 

Inform the National Energy Agenda

Advanced energy is a $1.4 trillion global market. Tennessee and TAEBC have a lot of expertise to share, especially in the area of transportation electrification. The state is uniquely positioned to capitalize on transportation electrification thanks to the hard work of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and previous governors like Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam, who diligently put our current advanced energy infrastructure and assets in place.

  • In July, TAEBC joined 50 cleantech organizations in signing on to the Transportation Electrification Partnership’s (TEP) $150 billion federal stimulus proposal. TEP’s proposal would create 2.3 million high-quality, advanced energy jobs across the United States and provide much-needed investments in zero-emissions vehicle manufacturing and innovation.
  • In August, TAEBC joined with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to host a webinar on the federal stimulus proposal and how it could support transportation electrification as a job creation and economic development opportunity in Tennessee.
    • TAEBC also authored an op-ed about the proposal and how its investments in advanced energy can help recharge Tennessee’s economy and secure its place as a leader in transportation electrification.
  • TAEBC held its 2020 Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub in early March. TAEBC members, stakeholders, and supporters heard from 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, who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.
    • Attendees also heard from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Senior Power Utilization Engineer, Drew Frye, who spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state, and Silicon Ranch’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, who spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations.
  • In early December, TAEBC held its annual Opportunities in Energy event. This year’s event included a panel session called, “Tennessee’s EVolution: Making the state a destination for the electric vehicle supply chain.” Panelists discussed the importance of transportation electrification efforts, areas of opportunity, and steps Tennessee can take to accelerate its goal to become the top state for EV manufacturing. The event also featured a preview of the 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

Support TVA and Our Local Power Company’s Efforts to Become Energy Companies of the Future

In February, TVA’s board voted to allow local power companies (LPCs) to self-generate or procure a percentage of their power demand through its Flexibility Proposal. Prior to this modification to the Flexibility Proposal (also called the Flexibility Option), LPCs were restricted from generating or procuring energy from local distributed sources.

  • The Flexibility Option represents a potential increase of more than one gigawatt of distributed advanced energy in the Tennessee Valley. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA’s draft Environmental Assessment. After the flexibility announcement was made, TAEBC praised TVA, stating that this move has the potential to create great economic impact in the region. TAEBC is here to offer our expertise so we can seize these opportunities to recruit and retain businesses in the state.
  • This fall, TAEBC partnered with Seven States Power to host a three-part Advanced Energy 101 webinar series for LPCs. The webinar series emphasized the benefits of advanced energy solutions, provided baseline information on various distributed energy technologies, and offered guidance to help LPCs take advantage of the Flexibility Option and any economic development opportunities that might follow.
  • In November, TAEBC also hosted a virtual Lunch and Learn with Jeannette Mills, TVA’s Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer. Mills talked about several LPC flexibility projects that arose from the Flexibility Option. She also discussed TVA’s approach to accelerate EV adoption through partnerships and the ways in which advanced energy serves as an economic development driver in Tennessee.

Help Tennessee Become the #1 Location in the Southeast for High-Quality Jobs

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. According to the 2018 Advanced Energy Economy Impact Report, employment in the advanced energy sector grew by 10.3%, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3%, since 2013.

  • In 2021, we will be releasing our third Advanced Energy Economy Impact Report. This new report will present a great opportunity to educate and exchange information about Tennessee’s advanced energy sector. We intend to use data from the report to inform actions we can take as a state to maximize economic opportunity from this sector for our economy, specifically in support of Tennessee’s goal to become the number one state in the country for EV manufacturing. We are grateful for TVA and the University of Tennessee’s financial support in this report.

Foster the Growth of Tennessee Advanced Energy Technologies and Startups

The Energy Mentor Network, a partnership between TAEBC and Launch Tennessee, is stronger than ever. The Energy Mentor Network’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry-specific expertise.

  • In 2020, 35 mentors helped us serve over 20 companies, while a record high number of five companies graduated from the program. Energy Mentor Network companies raised a combined total of $8 million in grants and funding. Here are a couple of highlights from our companies this year:
    • Justin Nussbaum, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Manufacturing, launched A Mask for All with two partners to address the global shortage of N95 masks, procedure masks, and personal protective equipment, which are desperately needed by caregivers and healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.
    • Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the annual pitch competition during Startup Day 2020, hosted by the Innov865 Alliance.
  • This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase took place virtually during Innov865 Week 2020 in September. The event, presented by TAEBC and Launch Tennessee, focused on the value of entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region and featured pitches from the five Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups. Innovation Crossroads Cohort Two alumni participated in a panel discussion where they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their experience in the Innovation Crossroads program.
  • TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper was a featured participant in a panel session on innovative partnerships at this year’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, presented by LaunchTN. Piper discussed TAEBC’s mission and how the Energy Mentor Network supports this mission by fostering the growth of advanced energy companies and technologies in Tennessee. In a separate panel session, seven members of Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three discussed what is on the horizon for cleantech and energy and how the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem helped their companies over the past year.

Additional 2020 Highlights

In addition to our mission highlights from 2020, TAEBC wants to share several other developments and accomplishments that occurred over the past 12 months.

  • TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the annual Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting in March. The award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Since founding Strata-G in 2002, Hurst and his 240 employees have contributed to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy through a diversity of advanced energy projects that are committed to improving the state’s communities.
  • TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper shared her vision for making Tennessee a global leader in advanced energy innovation and job creation on an October episode of LaunchTN’s Disrupt the Continuum podcast. Piper’s podcast episode, Turning Energy Innovation into Economic Growth, is part of LaunchTN’s #BuildTN series, which explores Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • In October, TAEBC celebrated a significant victory for Tennessee’s advanced energy industry with the announcement that GM will build an electric vehicle, the Cadillac Lyriq, at its Middle Tennessee Spring Hill plant. GM’s announcement comes with a planned $2 billion investment for the state and, along with Nissan’s and Volkswagen’s electric vehicle plans, signals opportunities for employment in the advanced energy economy for the people of Tennessee.
  • In November, TAEBC congratulated the University of Tennessee (UT) for receiving the prestigious designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The university has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) over the years to expand a number of energy-related research programs and partnerships that contribute to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.
  • Volkswagen, UT, and ORNL are partnering to create an innovation hub at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. This will be Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America and will offer research opportunities for doctoral students focused on EVs and the use of composite materials to create lighter vehicle components, among others.
  • In December, Piper was featured in a Startup Knox podcast episode where she discussed the creation of TAEBC and all things Knoxville.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Holidays from TAEBC!

TAEBC guest column: Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy

(Originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel

By Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC

Tennessee unemployment lingers close to 10% as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to chew through livelihoods across the state. Likewise, millions of Americans are unemployed. The state has an opportunity in this economic downturn, however, to add jobs and make the state a leader in the advanced energy economy for transportation.

The energy sector, specifically transportation electrification, is the solution that Tennesseans should pursue. It would have statewide impact, and with the potential backing of federal funding, has the potential to launch the state into a new phase of manufacturing and job creation.

Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council supports stimulus proposal

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council recently signed on to the Transportation Electrification Partnership’s $150 billion federal stimulus proposal. The coalition of 50 cleantech organizations from 15 states recently sent a letter to Congress, requesting multi-billion-dollar federal investment in transportation electrification. That investment would create 2.3 million high-quality, advanced energy jobs across the country. The proposal’s recommended actions include:

  • $25 billion investment in building and adopting electric and zero-emissions vehicles along with supply-chain development (producing domestic lithium for batteries, etc.);
  •  $85 billion for electric vehicle charging and related infrastructure;
  • $25 billion for zero-emissions public transit, active transit and safe streets;
  • $12.5 billion for workforce development, safety standards and job training; and
  •   $2.5 billion in innovation ecosystems for cleantech startups and related small businesses, prioritizing those created by underrepresented founders.

This electrification proposal isn’t just about putting electric vehicles on the street. It’s about creating manufacturing jobs, as $25 billion would boost the electric vehicle supply chain. Facilities such as Denso in Maryville have become regional leaders in employment because of their role in the automotive supply chain.

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