TAEBC’s “Roadmap for Tennessee’s Advanced Energy Economy” aims to promote the growth of advanced energy technologies in Tennessee

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In some of our recent blog posts, we’ve described 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?)

This information comes out of a document that TAEBC created called A Roadmap for Tennessee’s Advanced Energy Economy – and there’s a lot more to it than the features listed above.

There is increasing evidence that Tennessee’s advanced energy sector is poised for a period of sustained growth. TAEBC was created to help facilitate this growth by championing the use and manufacture of advanced energy technologies as an economic development strategy. With an overview of the existing companies and research institutions in Tennessee that together form the foundation for continued growth of the design, manufacture and installation of advanced energy technologies, the Roadmap for Tennessee’s Advanced Energy Economy seeks to provide the context for decisions by business and government leaders that could make a lasting contribution to Tennessee’s economic base over the next decade.

TAEBC’s goal is to help business and government view Tennessee’s advanced energy assets as an emerging sector that will play an increasing role in the state’s economic development. The Roadmap provides an overview of Tennessee’s economy and energy assets, a window into innovations that might transform the advanced energy sector, opportunities for greater energy efficiency, and a number of conclusions that TAEBC hopes will contribute to a discussion about how best to promote the growth of advanced energy technologies in Tennessee.

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.

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

Every state’s potential for the expansion of advanced energy technologies is shaped by 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 our last blog post, we elaborated on Tennessee’s high per-capita energy consumption, and for this post, we’ll focus on the gap in personal income.

While the size has fluctuated over the last three decades, there remains a historic gap between personal income in Tennessee and the national average. Although related indirectly to energy, this gap presents an opportunity in some regions of Tennessee to promote advanced energy as a vehicle for new companies and jobs.

While the U.S. per capita income rate grew by 72 percent between 1995 and 2010, income for Tennesseans increased by only 64 percent. Slower growth in Tennessee’s economy was accompanied by a reversal of the recent trend toward reaching the average U.S. per capita income. From the high water mark of 92 percent in 1995, Tennessee’s per capita income by 2012 had dropped to 88 percent of the national average, the lowest ratio in 17 years.[i]

Tennessee also required a longer period to recover from the economic deterioration that occurred from 2008-2010. The state’s unemployment rate of 6.7 percent in March 2014 represented the first time Tennessee had matched the national jobless figure since 2008. Statewide rates of unemployment and personal income serve to distort Tennessee’s economic picture, in which some regions are doing quite well while others continue to perform far below the state average.

This income and employment disparity among Tennessee’s regions is part of the context for discussing the state’s potential for creating advanced energy technology jobs.

A growing number of financially constrained local governments are looking at distributed generation and energy savings performance contracts as ways of reducing utility costs. The private sector increasingly is looking to cleaner sources of energy as a means of meeting sustainability goals and assuming more control over electricity costs. Many rural communities burdened with sustained double-digit unemployment may be particularly receptive to the idea of transitioning the local economy to include more advanced energy jobs. Likewise, the state of Tennessee has considerable flexibility in authorizing incentives for companies to locate in communities of high unemployment. Laid against the backdrop of a $1.1 trillion global economic opportunity presented by advanced energy, the state’s economic profile, and in particular the need to promote new jobs in a number of depressed regions, will be important factors in future discussions of how best to encourage the continued growth of an advanced energy economy in Tennessee.

[i]SA1-3 Personal Income Summary. Bureau of Economic Analysis. U.S. Department of Commerce. Retrieved from http://www.bea.gov.

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

As in every state, the potential for the expansion of advanced energy technologies will be shaped by economic factors and assets that are unique to Tennessee. 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?)

We’ll elaborate on Tennessee’s high per-capita energy consumption for this blog post and explore the other features in subsequent posts. 

The most distinctive feature of the state’s energy economy – and perhaps the greatest opportunity for an investment in advanced energy technologies – is the fact that Tennessee ranks as the 20th largest user of energy, per capita, in the U.S. The average residential consumer uses far more energy than consumers in almost all other states. In 2011, the average Tennessean used 87.8 million Btu’s of electricity, ranking Tennessee the 4th highest consumer of energy in the residential sector.[i]

In terms of industrial and commercial energy consumption per capita, Tennessee ranks as the 25th highest user. However, roughly 47 percent of energy consumed in Tennessee is for industrial and commercial purposes, while only 24 percent of Tennessee’s total consumption is for the residential sector. Approximately 29 percent of Tennessee energy consumption falls in the transportation sector.[ii]

TVA’s decision in 2007 to promote energy efficiency initiatives offers hope that historic patterns of energy consumption in Tennessee might gradually be reversed through the adoption of a combination of new energy technologies, government policies and TVA incentives designed to reduce residential demand for electric power. By 2010, energy efficiency programs had resulted in a savings of 143,000 megawatts of power, or about .14 percent of the state’s power consumption.[iii]

The introduction of new advanced energy technologies, particularly in the automotive industry, holds the promise of substantial reductions of energy use, both in the manufacturing of vehicles and in the amount of transportation energy used by the vehicles. The incorporation of similar technologies could have equally significant energy reductions for large commercial companies such as Federal Express.

Linked to TVA’s effort to reduce energy consumption is the agency’s parallel desire to lower the volume of emissions from coal-fired plants that provide more than one-half of the state’s electricity. The implementation of new energy technologies, some of which may be developed in Tennessee research institutions, can assist TVA in reaching that goal. In some instances, the ability to move these advanced energy technologies into the market will depend upon providing entrepreneurs with available capital and the support services required to stand up a new company.

The effort to reduce emissions from coal-fired plants is supplemented by initiatives to reduce the use of fossil fuels in Tennessee’s transportation industry. Joining with Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the state of Tennessee has allocated substantial funds to promote research and deployment of biofuels. Working with the same two partners, in 2011 Nissan chose Tennessee as one of the first five states to introduce the company’s electric car. Memphis Bioworks Foundation has been a major catalyst for business-led approaches to commercial advanced biofuels, biomass and feedstocks across Tennessee and the Mid-South.

Tennessee’s largest employer, Federal Express, is partnering with the Department of Energy to test the ability of hydrogen fuel cells to reduce carbon emissions while simultaneously lowering costs in Fed Ex’s enormous fleet of delivery trucks by as much as 40 percent. Managed through a partnership that includes Smith Electric Vehicles and Plug Power, the $3 million project will equip 20 delivery trucks with lithium-ion batteries combined with a 10-kilowatt Plug Power hydrogen fuel cell system.[iv]

[i]Energy consumption per capita by end-use sector, 2011, U.S. Energy Information Administration., Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/state/seds/data.cfm?incfile=/state/seds/sep_sum/html/rank_use_capita.html&sid=US.

[ii] Tennessee: State Profile and Energy Estimates, 2014, U.S. Energy Information Administration., Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TN#tabs-2

[iii] Clean Energy in My State: Tennessee Residential Energy Consumption, 2010. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. Retrieved from http://www.eere.energy.gov/states.

[iv] Energy Department Invests Over $7 Million to Commercialize Cost-Effective Hydrogen and Fuel Cell. Energy.Gov. U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved from Technologies http://energy.gov/articles/energy-department-invests-over-7-million-commercialize-cost-effective-hydrogen-and-fuel.