Advanced energy 101: The basics of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. To accomplish this mission, we educate public officials and business leaders about Tennessee’s advanced energy assets, establish strategic partnerships to connect assets with opportunities and inform policy that expands and strengthens the industry.

Last year, TAEBC hosted numerous events that emphasized the importance of transportation electrification and others that highlighted the benefits of advanced energy for local power companies (LPCs) across the Tennessee Valley. This year, TAEBC will continue to advance our priorities and focus on cultivating our state’s advanced energy economy, inviting stakeholders from West, Middle and East Tennessee to participate in this conversation. 

To celebrate and bring more awareness to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy, TAEBC has launched a short Advanced Energy 101 series. Part One will focus on the “basics,” which includes the what, why and how of advanced energy in our state.

What is advanced energy?

Advanced energy is a relatively new term but refers to any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient. It includes manufacturers and companies that use advanced energy technologies, as well as professional service providers, researchers and entrepreneurs.

Rather than favoring specific technologies, the term advanced energy is technology neutral. Any technology that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure and more efficient is in the bucket. Some examples include:

  • electric and plug-in hybrid cars
  • lightweight composites for the automotive industry
  • natural gas fueled trucks
  • pollution control equipment
  • bioenergy
  • high-performance buildings
  • more efficient industrial processes
  • power reliability
  • smart grids
  • combined heat and power
  • the latest wind, solar and nuclear technologies

Want to learn more? Check out this video where some of our members define advanced energy and discuss what the sector means for our state.

Why is advanced energy important?

According to TAEBC’s 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, advanced energy represents a $1.4 trillion global market. As the advanced energy economy continues to grow, it is more critical than ever for Tennessee to grow its share of this $1.4 trillion global market. 

In Tennessee, the industry represents a $39.7 billion contribution to state GDP, employs 358,360 jobs, and includes 18,170 businesses across the state. Advanced energy injects billions into the state economy, creates high quality jobs for Tennesseans, fuels growth for existing businesses, and attracts new corporate investment in the state. 

Since 2013, employment in the sector grew by 10.3 percent, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3 percent. Meanwhile, these jobs pay Tennesseans an average wage of $59,665, significantly more than the state’s economy-wide average of $44,317. Even better, these high-quality jobs aren’t just in urban areas. The advanced energy economy can enhance economic development in rural areas as well.

Learn more about the impact of advanced energy on our economy by downloading the 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

How can Tennessee lead the way in the advanced energy sector? 

Tennessee is already leading the way in the advanced energy sector, but TAEBC believes it’s vital to continue to support this important sector of our economy. As Cortney Piper, TAEBC’s Executive Director wrote in a recent guest column for the Knoxville News Sentinel, “The future is promising for advanced energy in Tennessee and the Southeast.”

There have been major victories in the advanced energy sector in the past year, particularly in the area of transportation electrification. Some of these include General Motors’ $2 billion plan for its electric vehicle plant in Spring Hill that will build Cadillac’s SUV and VW breaking ground on a $22 million Chattanooga lab to test EV batteries.

Even earlier this month, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation announced their partnership to develop a statewide electric vehicle fast charging network. This move will support the continued adoption of electric vehicles throughout the state and reduce barriers to the sector’s growth. 

Tennessee’s advanced energy economy is truly thriving. Over the next year, TAEBC is looking forward to releasing an updated economic impact report in 2021 and pursuing more collaborations and partnerships with Tennessee elected leaders, major institutions in the state and other TAEBC members.

Want to learn more or stay connected? Register for our bi-monthly newsletter and event notices today.

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!

TVA, Origis Energy to power Google data centers with 100% renewable energy

(Originally published on The Chattanoogan)

The Tennessee Valley Authority said Monday that the new 100-megawatt solar facility in Obion County, Tn. will supply carbon-free energy to Google’s data centers in Clarksville, Tn. and Hollywood, Al.

Florida-based solar developer Origis Energy is using TVA’s nationally recognized Green Invest program to develop the solar farm.

“The Green Invest program helps customers like Google meet their long-term sustainability goals with new renewable energy projects,” officials said. “In the past two years, Green Invest has generated $1.4 billion in economic activity in TVA’s service area.”

“TVA’s Green Invest can deliver clean, reliable renewable energy at a competitive price – stimulating growth across our seven-state region and giving our region a competitive advantage through public power,” said Chris Hansen, TVA vice president, Origination and Renewables.

Through a long-term power purchase agreement, Origis Energy will own and operate the plant, using industry leading land stewardship techniques. The project will create more than 300 construction jobs, with additional employment for eight to10 fulltime operations and maintenance staff. Origis plans to have the solar facility operational by the end of 2022, pending environmental reviews.

“This Tennessee solar milestone is another demonstration of the success of TVA’s Green Invest partnership,” said Johan Vanhee, Origis Energy chief commercial officer and chief procurement officer. “Such utility innovations are helping Google reach its aim to be the first major company to operate carbon free by 2030. We are very pleased to add 100 megawatts to this goal while contributing to the economic development of Obion County.”

To power the data centers, Google had already purchased a total of 266 megawatts of power generated by multiple solar farms linked into the TVA electric grid.

“Google is the world’s largest corporate buyer of renewable energy and our goal is to run our business on carbon-free energy everywhere, at all times, by 2030,” said Reid Spolek, with Data Center Energy Strategy at Google. “Working with TVA and Origis through Green Invest will help move us closer to this goal.”

Monday’s announcement comes on the heels of four other major Green Invest deals TVA completed this year: General Motors, Vanderbilt University, Knoxville Utilities Board and Facebook.

“TVA is a job creator, and we are looking for creative ways to use our solar programs to bring high-paying jobs to the communities we serve,” said Mr. Hansen. “By integrating public-private partnerships with clean energy, we can make our region the premier destination for businesses that want to achieve their sustainability goals.”

Tennessee Fortune 100 and 500 companies setting renewable energy, sustainability targets

Earlier this month a new report, 2016 Corporate Advanced Energy Commitments, explained renewable energy demand is “significant and growing quickly” within Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies.

fortune-500-logoIts findings reveal that 71 of Fortune 100 companies and 215 of Fortune 500 companies have set renewable energy or sustainability targets.

TAEBC decided to take a closer look at which companies in Tennessee not only made the list but also have set energy goals within their corporations.

It’s important to mention 22 companies in the Fortune 500 list have committed to 100% renewable energy including General Motors and Nike.

General Motors has a plant located in Spring Hill, Tennessee and recently announced plans to add 650 jobs there. Meanwhile, Nike’s largest distribution center is located in Memphis, Tennessee.

fedexlogoComing in at the highest ranked Tennessee headquartered company on the list is FedEx Corp. FedEx’s corporate office is located in Memphis. It’s been on the list for more than 20 years and employs more than 323,000 people nationwide.

As for energy commitments, FedEx Corp. has set ambitious goals to reduce its footprint by:

  • Increasing FedEx Express vehicle efficiency by 30 percent by 2020 (It surpassed its original 20 percent by 2020 goal years ahead of schedule.)
  • Getting 30 percent of its jet fuel from alternative fuels by 2030
  • Expanding on-site renewable energy generation and procurement of renewable energy credits

The company has made impressive gains in meeting and exceeding these goals.

  • In FY12, FedEx achieved a 22% fuel efficiency improvement in the FedEx Express vehicle fleet since FY05. It also happily announced that FedEx Express increased its previously stated vehicle fuel efficiency goal by 50% to a 30% improvement by 2020, still using FY05 as the baseline year.
  • By the end of FY12, FedEx Express had increased its global electric vehicle and hybrid-electric vehicle fleet to 482 vehicles, an increase of nearly 18%. As of December 2012, these vehicles had logged 14.8 million miles and saved 480,000 gallons of fuel since being introduced to its fleet in 2005.

hcaholdings-inc-logoThe other Tennessee company making it to the Fortune 100 list is HCA Holdings, Inc. HCA Holdings’s corporate office is in Nashville. It’s the nation’s largest hospital chain and its revenues rose 8.7% over the past year. The magazine credits this to the passing of the Affordable Care Act, increasing its number of insured patients seeking healthcare.

HCA Holdings, Inc. has been on Fortune’s list for at least 22 years. The company employs more than 200,000 workers.

HCA has created a 2016 Sustainability Plan that mentions the collective impact all hospitals made in 2015 along with plans for the future in new construction projects including:

  • Pursuit of LEED Status – Several of HCA’s hospitals have received LEED Certified status or are in the final stages of such including it’s Nashville Data Center.
  • Alternative Energy Sources – Solar, wind, and combined heat and power energy systems can be incorporated into new construction. HCA’s Sustainability Plan says “an evaluation of the feasibility of these systems will occur for all future projects.

Three Distinctive Features of Tennessee’s Energy Economy: Part Three

The potential for Tennessee to expand its advanced energy technologies is shaped by its economic factors and unique assets. TAEBC identified three distinctive features of Tennessee’s energy economy that together reflect the challenges and opportunities for the expansion of advanced energy technologies:

  1. High Per-Capita Energy Consumption
  2. A Gap in Personal Income
  3. The Potential of Three Major Players (and Who are They?)

In some recent posts, we have elaborated on Tennessee’s high per-capita energy consumption and a gap in personal income. The final part to this series is discussing the potential of three major players – and explaining who they are.

Initiatives from three distinct components of Tennessee’s economy – the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and the automotive sector, including the massive assembly plants of General Motors, Nissan and Volkswagen – will have a disproportionate influence on the direction and success of the state’s efforts to promote an advanced energy economy. The ability to understand the assets that these three major economic players bring to the discussion, as well as their willingness to combine these assets in support of advanced energy technologies, will to a large extent shape the opportunities for sustained expansion of the advanced energy economy in Tennessee.

While the automotive sector represents what may be the single largest opportunity to expand the use of advanced energy technologies, significant opportunities also exist within other key clusters in which Tennessee, because of geography and a mature industrial base, has a competitive advantage. Examples include logistics, transportation and distribution services, chemical products and plastics, and advanced manufacturing.

Since its creation in the 1930s, TVA has played a major role in the growth of Tennessee’s manufacturing base and, more recently, in efforts to reduce the volume of sulphur and carbon emissions in the state’s air. TVA’s mission includes use of the agency’s resources to improve environmental quality and foster economic development. The scope of TVA’s energy portfolio makes it possible to pilot, incentivize and evaluate a variety of innovative clean technologies.

Increasingly, Tennessee’s inventory of advanced energy technologies is the beneficiary of breakthrough discoveries and initiatives at ORNL, the nation’s largest energy research institution, and the University of Tennessee. The Laboratory is at the forefront of innovation for biofuels, energy storage, solar technology and nuclear power. A close relationship with the University of Tennessee has resulted in the Laboratory becoming a vital part of the state of Tennessee’s economic strategy with successive governors.

In many respects, the initiatives of both TVA and ORNL are responsive to efforts by Tennessee’s automotive manufacturers to promote advanced energy technologies, both in their products and in the operation of their manufacturing facilities. In Smyrna, Nissan has made a historic investment in the design and manufacture of batteries and electric cars in Tennessee. In Chattanooga, Volkswagen operates Tennessee’s largest solar park, where 13 million kilowatt hours are produced annually to power 12 percent of the enormous manufacturing facility.[i] Each of Tennessee’s automotive manufacturers is looking over the horizon to innovative technologies and materials such as carbon fiber that will reduce weight and increase fuel efficiency.

The last decade has witnessed a growing willingness among the three major entities in Tennessee’s energy economy to partner in the deployment of innovative technologies. TAEBC views the ability to replicate this kind of cooperation as a key factor in expanding Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

[i] 2012, August 29. Work begins on $30 million solar park at Volkswagen. Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Retrieved from http://www.timesfreepress.com.