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.

2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award winners announced

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner David Salyers announced the winners of the 2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards.

“Tennesseans continue to show their commitment to the environment in innovative ways, and we want to recognize their outstanding efforts,” Lee said. “These awards show that responsible environmental stewardship is happening across our state.”

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards program recognizes exceptional voluntary actions that improve or protect our environment and natural resources with projects or initiatives not required by law or regulation.

In its 34th year, the awards program covers nine categories: agriculture and forestry; building green; clean air; energy and renewable resources; environmental education and outreach; materials management; natural resource conservation; sustainable performance; and water quality conservation.

Read the full announcement by visiting TDEC’s website.

Deadline to submit nominations for 2020 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards

The Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards (GESA) are presented annually to recognize outstanding achievements by individuals, local governments, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, and agencies for successful environmental projects and conservation measures. The awards program was instituted in 1986 by Ernie Blankenship of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Health, a predecessor of TDEC, and has been adopted by the Governor’s office as one of its award programs.

GESA are designed to enhance knowledge and awareness of effective conservation and environmental practices and projects making outstanding contributions to the preservation and protection of community and state natural resources and to give proper recognition to those who engage in these outstanding practices. GESA also encourage leadership by example through its award winners, leading to increased protection and conservation of Tennessee’s wildlife, forests, soils, air, water, natural heritage, parks, and recreation. Applications are judged in nine different criteria areas, including such items as project results and transferability, as well as three eligibility areas: location within the state of Tennessee, completion of a majority of the project in the current calendar year, and three years of exceptional environmental compliance with TDEC.

GESA are the most prestigious environmental and conservation awards in the state. For more than 30 years, the awards have been presented to individuals and organizations making significant contributions to the protection and improvement of our natural resources and wildlife. GESA supports the Governor’s priorities of Job and Economic Development and Health and Welfare, while also supporting TDEC priorities of Public/Private Partnerships and Positive Environmental Outcomes.

Projects must meet the following requirements to be eligible for a Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award:

  • Be located or reside in Tennessee
  • Nominated projects must have been largely completed during the 2019 calendar year
  • Nominees shall have a minimum three years of exceptional environmental compliance
  • Be submitted in the provided format
  • Winning applicants must agree to allow a summary of their accomplishments to be published
  • There must be a three-year window between wins for each category to be eligible for that category again

Deadline to apply is March 31, 2020.

Click here to learn more!

Submit nominations for the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards!

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) and the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) are accepting nominations for the 2020 Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Awards (TSTAs) from now until Friday, June 19. Winners will be honored at the Tennessee Sustainable Transportation Forum and Expo later this year. Submit your nominations here.

The TSTAs recognize outstanding initiatives to improve the efficiency, accessibility, affordability, and sustainability of the state’s transportation systems. In the judging criteria, TDEC and TDOT ask nominees to provide information about how their project addresses one or more of the following areas:

  • Innovation: How the project utilized new thinking or creative approaches to meet a particular transportation challenge
  • Best Practices and Replicability: How the project demonstrates a transferable solution, such that others could adopt or implement similar programs or initiatives
  • Changes in Transportation Behavior: How a project worked to encourage or achieve changes in transportation behavior in order to make a transportation system more efficient
  • Improvements to Public Health, Resilience, and Safety: How a project creates improvements to public health, well-being, or safety in a given community
  • Equity and Access: How the project provides sustainable transportation benefits to all community members and creates accessible mobility solutions for diverse audiences

Regarding eligibility requirements, all project must:

  • Eligible entities include federal, State (excluding divisions under TDEC and TDOT), and local governments; commercial, non-profit, and industrial organizations; public and private institutions of higher education; and utilities.
  • Projects must be located within or have occurred in Tennessee. A project that is part of a regional or national initiative must have a significant Tennessee nexus.
  • Projects must have been completed in the last five years. 
  • Nominees must have a minimum of three consecutive, current years of exceptional environmental compliance with TDEC.
  • Applicants must agree to allow a summary of their accomplishments to be published by the State of Tennessee and/or the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Projects that were awarded a TSTA in the past may not be awarded again, unless significant changes to the project have occurred in the interim.

TAEBC recently heard from TDEC Commissioner David Salyers at our Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub, where he discussed how the state is moving swiftly to promote electric vehicle adoption and increase charging infrastructure availability.

Check out the list of 2019 TSTA winners here. If you have questions about the TSTAs, please contact OEP Senior Program Manager Alexa Voytek at Alexa.Voytek@tn.gov or 615-532-0238.

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.”