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.”

Drive Electric Tennessee Needs Assessment Released for Statewide Charging Infrastructure

Drive Electric Tennessee published the Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment in November, following the release of the first edition of its Electric Vehicle Roadmap on January 18, 2019. The Roadmap set a goal to boost EV adoption to 200,000 by 2028 and identified projects and initiatives local stakeholders can implement to increase EV adoption statewide. 

The purpose of the assessment was to analyze the state’s current electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and find where new chargers should be placed to promote the continued adoption of EVs. According to the assessment, the main questions explored in the project include:

  • What is the coverage, usage, and state of repair of current charging infrastructure in Tennessee?
  • What are the plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) charging infrastructure needs in the state to support goal of 200,000 PEVs in Tennessee by 2028?
  • What gaps exist between the current infrastructure and future infrastructure needs?

To address these questions, the executive summary of the assessment is divided into four parts. According to the summary, the scope and key takeaways from each of these four parts are as follows:

  1. Baseline Light-Duty Assessment: In a research study of available data complemented by a field survey of 48 charging sites across the state, the assessment discovered:
    • 87 percent of surveyed charging sites were fully operational, matching public data from Plugshare.
    • There are opportunities for improvement with both user and host experience.
  2. EV Charging Use Case Tracks: Navigant’s VAST network siting optimization tool was used to identify potential geographic areas for charging infrastructure in order to meet the 200,000 EV goal. The assessment produced two maps of potential geographic areas for EV charging infrastructure to support deployment goals, which are:
    • Fast charging network map: Concentrated on or near corridors and high demands sites.
    • Level 2 charging network map: Complementary stations at fast charging sites and the majority of remaining use case tracks. 
  3. Use Case Prioritization: Through an evaluation of charging use cases based on market attractiveness and social impact, the assessment found that:
    • Primary market charging sites are more likely to attract private investment.
    • Corridor and secondary market sites may not attract private investment and are good candidates for public funding.
    • Multi-family sites are both attractive to private investment and have high social impact.
  4. Program Benchmarking: Data was collected on demographics, market development, utility programs, state EV policy, and outreach efforts across state and utility programs with attributes most relevant to the Tennessee market. The assessment found:
    • Broad stakeholder support is important to increase EV adoption.
    • Education and outreach efforts are important to successful programs.
    • Utility investment in make-ready infrastructure and EV rates are common in utility programs.

As TAEBC wrote earlier this year, advanced energy solutions, such as the adoption of clean transportation solutions, present economic development and job creation opportunities for the state. This newly released assessment highlights the value of moving forward with EV projects outlined in the Roadmap and establishing Tennessee as a powerhouse for EV manufacturing and use.

This goal was realized in November, when Volkswagen broke ground on its $800 million EV expansion at its Chattanooga plant, which will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the region.

TDEC issues RFI on light duty ZEV supply equipment

On November 1, 2019, TDEC issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit program design feedback for the forthcoming solicitation under the Light Duty Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Supply Equipment category.

TDEC also plans to leverage program design insights from Drive Electric Tennessee’s Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment, which is expected to be published on TDEC’s Drive Electric Tennessee webpage. TDEC encourages respondents to review this Needs Assessment when compiling feedback.

View the Light Duty SEZ Supply Equipment RFI here

Respondents may submit information in response to some or all of the questions contained within the RFI (Section 5: Information Requested, pages 7-12). Responses should be transmitted electronically to TDEC.OEP@tn.gov in PDF format and must be received by 4:00 pm CT on December 6, 2019. TDEC will conduct a comprehensive review and evaluation of all responses.

TDEC will continue to release solicitations for funding under the VW Settlement EMT in the coming months. Interested persons are advised to sign up for the TDEC VW Settlement email list at https://signup.e2ma.net/signup/1843437/1737620/ to be kept apprised of all future and related announcements. For additional information on the VW Settlement, visit the TDEC website here: http://www.tn.gov/environment/VWSettlementClick here to learn more about TDEC’s project solicitations under the VW Settlement EMT.

Drive Electric Tennessee outlines plan for Tennessee’s electric vehicle future in statewide Electric Vehicle Roadmap

Drive Electric Tennessee, a statewide electric vehicle (EV) consortium, hopes to make the Tennessee Valley a leader in EV transportation in the Southeast over the next decade.

Throughout 2018, state agencies, universities, utilities, advocacy groups, electric vehicle OEMs, and other stakeholders collaborated to define their outlook for Tennessee’s clean transportation sector. In January 2019, Drive Electric Tennessee released the culmination of its hard work, A Roadmap for Electric Vehicles in Tennessee.

The Roadmap offers guiding principles, goals, opportunity areas, and approaches to get more EVs on the road during the next 10 years. According to the report, Drive Electric Tennessee aspires to significantly increase EV adoption from less than 5,000 EVs in 2017 to 200,000 by 2028.

Guiding principles behind the Roadmap focus on economic development, social benefits, cost-effectiveness, and technology innovation. The report states EV adoption in the state will promote local and regional economic development, reduce environment impacts, foster entrepreneurship and technical innovation, and prepare for a more connected, autonomous transportation sector in near the future.

The Roadmap identifies four key opportunity areas to address major EV market gaps in the state. Drive Electric Tennessee will meet each goal through the implementation of 45 projects and 15 initiatives over the next decade. Each opportunity area is tied to high-level, clean transportation goals for Tennessee. These four opportunity areas and goals are:

  1. Driving Charging Infrastructure Availability: Develop a charging infrastructure that enables Tennessee residents to (1) drive and charge an EV in their daily lives (home, work, and public charging) or (2) access electric public transit options.
  2. Driving Awareness: Increase awareness and first-hand experience of the benefits of driving an EV such that the majority of vehicle owners are aware of EVs when they begin their next purchasing process.
  3. Driving Innovative and Supportive Policies: Create consistent, innovative, and supportive policies across Tennessee at the state, county, city, and utility levels, inclusive of incentives, electricity rates, planning standards, and other policies and programs.
  4. Driving EV Availability, Offerings, and Innovation: Make EV models viable, accessible, and comparable purchasing alternatives to traditional vehicles.

At TAEBC, we believe advanced energy solutions, such as clean transportation, lead to state job creation and economic development. This Roadmap emphasizes the importance of stakeholders coming together to help Tennessee become a leader in EV adoption in the next few years.

As our state leads the country in employment for automobile and vehicle component manufacturing, we already have the potential to become an integral force in this bright future of the transportation sector.

This potential turned into a reality in mid-January, when Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced that Volkswagen will build their first EV manufacturing facility in the country in Chattanooga.

The project will create 1,000 new jobs in Hamilton county and serves as an $800 million investment from Volkswagen. Remarking on this deal, Rolfe told The Times Press Press that he intends for Tennessee to be number one in the country for EV manufacturing.

Both the announcement and Drive Electric Tennessee’s report demonstrates how Tennessee is turning stakeholder interest in sustainable transportation solutions into an economic reality to benefit all Tennesseans.