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.

A boost for community and technical colleges

Of the $150 billion in the proposal, $12.5 billion is dedicated to workforce development and job training. Think of the expansion that could provide for community and technical colleges across the state as we build a workforce of smart people with the technical know-how to remain competitive for new potential employers. Another $2.5 billion would go toward fostering an advanced-energy entrepreneurial ecosystem. That’s money directly going to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Transportation electrification falls under the advanced energy sector – anything making energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient. At our core, TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. In our 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, we found that advanced energy contributes $39.7 billion to state gross domestic product and employs nearly 360,000 Tennesseans.

It’s simple: The advanced energy sector creates high-quality jobs, fuels growth for existing businesses and attracts new corporate investment in the state. It’s already happening. Volkswagen is opening a new $800 million electric vehicle production site. Facebook has a new $800 million data center near Nashville that will be powered by two new solar energy projects. Advanced energy will continue to recharge our economy and accelerate growth during this challenging time.

Tennessee is uniquely positioned to capitalize on transportation electrification thanks to the hard work of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and previous governors Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam, who diligently put our current advanced energy infrastructure and assets in place. Just last year, Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, reinforced our state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in the country.

The state is ready to lead the country in transportation electrification. In fact, work in electrification is a key part of Tennessee’s history in America. In 1933, the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority brought jobs and helped Tennesseans pull through the worst of the Great Depression. Today, the transportation electrification efforts outlined in this proposal could and should be used as job creation and economic development opportunities to help us rise out of our current crisis.

LaunchTN’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival panel sessions with TAEBC Executive Director, Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three, highlight value of Energy Mentor Network

LaunchTN’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival celebrates visionaries and innovators who are actively shaping their entrepreneurial ecosystems through their expertise, research and forward-thinking ideas. 

During the 10-day, virtual festival, Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council Executive Director, Cortney Piper, spoke in a panel session about innovation partnerships, while the Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three startups held a live Q&A session with alumni Megan O’Connor of Nth Cycle. O’Connor and the Cohort Three startups are enrolled in TAEBC’s Energy Mentor Network program.  

The “Startup, Inc.: Advancing Strategy with Innovation Partnerships” panel session featured Piper; Reed Hayes, AVP of Digital Strategy & Innovation at Unum; and Anthony Oni, Co-founder and CEO of Cloverly, and Vice President Corporate Communications at Southern Company Gas. The panel was moderated by Daley Ervin, the Managing Director of Engage. 

Participants discussed how investing in innovation partnerships can be lucrative for small or large businesses, and can help rapidly increase scale for emerging companies or advance existing strategies for market incumbents. They explained how and why companies and organizations invest in establishing these partnerships, along with how other businesses can benefit from doing the same.

Piper spoke about the mission of TAEBC to champion advanced energy as an “economic development and job creation strategy,” along with the Energy Mentor Network, which is run by TAEBC in partnership with LaunchTN. One of the main goals of the Energy Mentor Network, said Piper, is to “foster the growth of advanced energy companies and technologies in the state of Tennessee.” 

In the final segment of the panel, Piper explained that the Energy Mentor Network helps startups learn how to “concisely and compellingly” tell their story, understand that “just because a company can partner with you, doesn’t mean they will,” and to be persistent when reaching out to potential partners or sources of funding.

Meanwhile, the “Live AMA with ORNL’s Innovation Crossroads” showcased O’Connor sitting down with seven members of Cohort Three to discuss what is next on the frontiers of cleantech and energy. Cohort Three includes Williams Fitzhugh of American Nanotechnologies Inc., Hicham Ghossein of Endeavor Composites Inc., Jesse Claypoole of MantaPoole Technologies, Leila Safavi of Purist Inc., Trevor McQueen of Neptune Fluid Flow Systems, Alex Lewis of Electro-Active Technologies Inc., and Jesse Thornburg of Grid Fruit

During the session, Cohort Three startups answered questions ranging from what advice they would give to burgeoning entrepreneurs to how the Tennessee ecosystem has helped their companies over the past year.

“This area has so much to offer. It’s so accessible,” explained McQueen. “It has helped every facet of our business grow. We couldn’t be happier.” 

Safavi remarked that the best piece of advice she would give to new entrepreneurs or researchers is to have a “great support group.”

“Without them pushing me forward at times when I had doubt, without their support, it wouldn’t be possible,” she continued. “Having a good group of supporters that can advise you and help you move forward is key.”

O’Connor echoed Safavi’s advice about the importance of support systems, saying, “I think that’s one of the great benefits of Innovation Crossroads, having that really early stage support behind you.”

To learn more about the Energy Mentor Network program or become a mentor, click here.

Thank you for submitting your Tom Ballard Award nominations!

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) wants to thank everyone who submitted nominations for this year’s Tom Ballard Award. Nominations closed on Monday, February 3 at noon.

TAEBC received multiple nominations from an impressive array of individuals, including local business leaders, academia, and company executives. The winner will be contacted soon. 

The Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

TAEBC promotes the state’s advanced energy economy as an economic development and job creation strategy through sharing information, connecting stakeholders, and strengthening the industry. These pillars are personally exemplified by the tireless work of Tom Ballard, an unparalleled leader, educator, mentor, and advocate of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

Ballard was TAEBC’s first president upon its launch in 2014 and served on the board of directors until 2019. He is currently the Chief Alliance Officer of Pershing Yoakley & Associates and serves as editor of Teknovation.biz, an online service launched in 2011 to spotlight and celebrate all things related to technology, innovation and entrepreneurship in Tennessee.

The first-ever award went to Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s 2019 Annual Meeting in Franklin, Tennessee.

“Without Tom Ballard, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council would have never grown to the level of success it experiences today,” said Cortney Piper, vice president and executive director of TAEBC. “It’s impossible to measure Tom’s impact on Tennessee’s advanced energy economy with words alone, and for that reason he is most deserving of having an award being named in his honor.”

This year’s recipient will receive the award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, March 5, 2020 at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. If you would like to attend, please RSVP by following this link.

TAEBC Annual Meeting 2019

TAEBC’s Annual Meeting will be held Tuesday, February 12, 2019 at Schneider Electric in Franklin, Tennessee beginning at 1:30 p.m. Central Time.

RSVP here!

This event is free to TAEBC members, government or elected officials.

There’s a $25 ticket cost for non-members, plus a small additional fee.

Featured Speakers include:

  • Don Wingate, Vice President of Utility & Microgrid Solutions, Schneider Electric

Wingate will present on “The New Energy Landscape” emerging across the country.

  • Chris Hansen, Director of Pricing Strategy and Origination, TVA

Game of Zones: Turning demands for sustainable energy into opportunities for economic development

In light of TVA announcing major advanced energy deals with Facebook and Google, Hansen will talk about these significant DER successes in the Valley!

  • Cortney Piper, Vice President, TAEBC

Piper will discuss 2018’s biggest advanced energy milestones in Tennessee, recommendations from our most recent advanced energy economic impact report and the year ahead.

  • Ben Edgar, President and Founder, White Harvest Energy

Edgar will outline White Harvest Energy’s work with 2GEnergy in implementing Erlanger Health System’s new Combined Heat and Power system in Chattanooga.

  • Ryan Stanton, Sr. Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives, TDEC

Stanton will discuss Drive Electric Tennessee‘s first edition of its Electric Vehicle Roadmap report for the state.

Happy Hour 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.

During happy hour there will be a Schneider Electric technology showcase featuring the company’s microgrid solutions, energy automation & control systems, and smart home technologies.

Environmental Justice: The Pursuit of Energy Dominance & a Resilient Appalachia Webinar

With some of the highest poverty rates in the country, Appalachian communities stand at a post-coal crossroads between potential preeminence in the region’s energy supply and building resilient economies. The disparity of land ownership, long-lasting public health inequities, and unequal access to infrastructure (especially hospitals and highways) have all resulted in distinct environmental justice obstacles for communities throughout Appalachia.

Presently, only 2% of the Appalachian workforce is employed by the coal industry, and many have called for the emergence of new economic developments for greater prosperity. Many public interest groups advocate for an economic transition to foster “green collar” jobs as a major solution to the unemployment gap, and one that would train workers in renewable energy systems. How to catalyze this transition, however, remains uncertain. Competing with renewables is the natural gas industry transforming shale deposits into fuel with concerns that this approach, while offering short-term economic gains, may just reaffirm Appalachia’s historic fossil fuel dependency and lead to environmental problems. With uncertain paths to development and resilience, Appalachia’s fate demonstrates the complexity of how to navigate the intricate nexus of economic insecurity, inequality, and resource extraction in 21st century America.

Join ELI and our expert panelists to explore the potential of green energy innovation for fostering environmental justice and resilient economies in Appalachian communities.

For more information, go to this page on Environmental Law Institute‘s website.

  • For webinar/telecomREGISTER HERE.  Webinar information will be emailed one business day prior to the event. If you are unsure if you can access the webinar via the GoToMeeting platform, please go HERE to view system requirements prior to registering.

Panelists:
James McElfish Jr.
, Director of Sustainable Use of Land Program, Environmental Law Institute, Moderator
Kate Boyle, Deputy Executive Director, Appalachian Voices
Emily Collins, Executive Director & Managing Attorney, Fair Shake Environmental Legal Services
Jillian C. Kirn, Associate, Greenberg Traurig, LLP
Cortney Piper, Co-Founder & Vice President, TN Advanced Energy Business Council and President, Piper Communications LLC
Mary Shoemaker, State Policy Analyst, The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE)