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.”

Launch Tennessee adopts updated strategic plan, emphasizes capital formation, market building, and resource deployment

Launch Tennessee’s (LaunchTN) Board of Directors recently adopted an updated version of its strategic plan at its latest quarterly meeting. The updated plan emphasizes three key strategies: capital formation, market building, and systemic resource deployment. 

Capital Formation
According to the plan, one of LaunchTN’s strategies is to “expand capital resources and expedite their availability to TN businesses so that they can grow, be sustainable, create jobs, and build accessible economic prosperity for our state.” To achieve this strategy, LaunchTN’s objectives are to increase access to available LaunchTN capital and proactively engage with investors across the state, country, and world to improve access to non-LaunchTN capital. The organization will also develop outbound marketing initiatives to target other investors. 

Market Building
Building upon capital formation, LaunchTN intends to “identify and recruit recognized leaders in relevant markets to drive a systemic solution for stakeholders to engage, connect, and achieve mutually beneficial results by working together.” To adhere to this strategy, LaunchTN has three main objectives: build an accountable environment of systemic teamwork, collaboration, and communication with market and ecosystem builders; optimize corporate/big company engagement with startups; and develop outbound marketing initiatives targeting market and ecosystem builders. 

Systemic Resource Deployment
LaunchTN wrote that it aims to “streamline the connection of our statewide Network Partners and other stakeholders to resources that enable a high-functioning ecosystem in Tennessee for entrepreneurship.” LaunchTN has outlined four objectives in order to work toward this strategy: enhance and drive connectivity and convening; establish competitive policy influence; implement and optimize information systems; and develop and execute an outbound marketing strategy. 

In addition to other changes, CEO Margaret Dolan highlighted the organization’s new mission and vision statement to include the words “empowering a network of resources.” 

One of TAEBC’s commitments to our members and stakeholders is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups. TAEBC works to fulfill this goal through our Energy Mentor Network that serves as one of LaunchTN’s Statewide Network Partners and pairs knowledgeable mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs in the region. 

Currently, the Energy Mentor Network has six participating startups who are working through the structured program, which involves panel presentations and mentoring sessions. The purpose of the program is to help develop and support quality advanced energy startups. Four startups have graduated from the program to date. To learn more about Energy Mentor Network startups or become a mentor, click here.

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!

TAEBC wishes you a Happy Thanksgiving!

As Thanksgiving approaches, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council has been reflecting on what we’re thankful for as Tennessee’s advanced energy sector continues to grow, creating jobs and economic development opportunities for the state.

Advanced energy is technology neutral. Any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is welcome at our table.

Our footprint expands to every corner of the state, and Tennessee’s advanced energy industry is well-positioned to strengthen at a robust pace. Other than our members, here’s what we’re thankful for this holiday season:

#1 Launch Tennessee & The Energy Mentor Network

We’re grateful for the opportunity to collaborate alongside Launch Tennessee, a public-private partnership that supports entrepreneurs from ideation to exit, to form the Energy Mentor Network.

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 broad strokes, the Energy Mentor Network pairs mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs through a structured program involving panel presentations and mentoring sessions.

The purpose of the program is to develop quality startups. After completing the program, startups will have an investable pitch deck, a rock solid business model and a plan to establish more traction. These tools will position Tennessee’s entrepreneurs to raise capital, request other funds like SBIR grants, and scale their company.

We’re pleased to say four energy companies, Stone Mountain Technologies, Solar Site Design, Active Energy Systems and SkyNano have graduated from the program with several more on track.

(Interested in becoming a mentor for the next energy innovator? Click here. Are you a Tennessee energy startup and want to apply to the Energy Mentor Network program? Click here.)

#2 The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

TAEBC is committed to help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs, in line with state leadership goals.

TNECD is working hard to make Tennessee a business friendly environment that not only attracts new companies to our state but also promotes growth for our existing businesses that call Tennessee home.

TAEBC has met with TNECD leaders outlining how our advanced energy sector employs nearly 360,000 Tennesseans in more than 18,000 businesses that contribute almost $40 billion to the state’s GDP. Advanced energy is a job-creation engine for Tennessee, and Tennessee’s advanced energy sector is growing faster than the overall state economy by a significant margin. 

#3 Increased federal support for energy research and development investments

Congress has continued to see the value in providing record funding for the Office of Science, one of the most important Department of Energy programs that support the work of our country’s 17 national laboratories, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The Office of Science supports basic science and energy research and is the nation’s largest supporter of research in the physical sciences. For years, Congress has known and understood more comprehensive energy R&D funding means more economic development opportunities and high-quality jobs for Americans and Tennesseans. 

Happy Thanksgiving from the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council!

Active Energy Systems Secures Funding as One of Three Initial Investments from New, Local Venture Capital Fund

Energy Mentor Network graduate, Active Energy Systems, was selected as one of three initial investments made by the TennesSeed Fund, a new, evergreen, seed-stage, proof of concept venture capital fund that seeks regional investments in Tennessee companies. 

The Fund is managed by a collaboration of Three Roots Capital, Meritus Capital, and Innova Memphis, Inc. Grady Vanderhoofven, the founder, president and chief executive officer of Three Roots Capital, and Ken Woody, the president, partner and founder of Innova Memphis, serve as the Fund’s co-managers, directors, and investment team members.

The Fund does not have a specific industry or technology focus, allowing it to help companies, like Active Energy, achieve specific, well-defined milestones. Woody said the evergreen structure “allows for the permanent, ongoing cycle of fundraising, investments, and successful investment outcomes, which hopefully will have direct and lasting economic benefits throughout the state.”

“Our relationship with the TennesSeed Fund has been great timing for us,” said Active Energy Co-Founder Mitchell Ishmael. “They provided the right advice at the right time and funds just when we needed them to secure our intellectual property claims. This investment and relationship has been immensely valuable for us.”

In addition to the Fund’s investment, Active Energy has received funding from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation SBIR program matched by LaunchTN. Combined, these investments amount to over $500,000.

In addition to funding momentum, Active Energy recently graduated the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with Launch Tennessee. To graduate, participating startups must build investable pitch decks, finance models, and structured business plans and defend those plans before panels of established entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

Active Energy also completed its two-year fellowship with Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program in May. Speaking with Teknovation.biz earlier this year, Ishmael said “the Innovation Crossroads team helped us make the necessary industry and investor connections to complete our pivot.”

Currently, the company is building a larger cooling system for a 6,000 square foot facility and constructing a “show and tell” system for onsite demonstrations. 

Visit Active Energy Systems’ website to learn more about this innovative startup. If you are interested in becoming a mentor for startups like Active Energy Systems in the Energy Mentor Network, follow this link.