2021 TAEBC Annual Meeting emphasizes value of partnerships, the Energy Mentor Network and transportation electrification efforts in Tennessee

TAEBC awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe

On March 25, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its virtual 2021 Annual Meeting, sponsored by Seven States Power Corporation. The event featured speakers from the Department of Energy, state agencies and the graduates of the Energy Mentor Network. TAEBC also awarded the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to Bob Rolfe, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD).

TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the event’s festivities by providing an overview of the TAEBC’s accomplishments in 2020 and gave a glimpse at priorities for the organization moving forward into 2021.

“As our nation moves forward and accelerates on its vision for a clean energy economy, we believe that the state of Tennessee has the assets and the businesses to help inform that agenda,” said Piper.

Featured speaker: DOE’s Vanessa Z. Chan

Featured speaker Vanessa Z. Chan, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chief Commercialization Officer & Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, spoke about her background, her office’s vision and specific ways DOE supports energy entrepreneurs. She discussed how Tennessee is the “perfect ecosystem” for technology growth due to the presence of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other key stakeholders.

“My lifelong passion has been helping engineers and scientists aim their scientific prowess at real-world problems that they can transform,” said Chan. “If we combine the strength of a national lab like Oak Ridge with a strong university system and the people represented here by groups like TAEBC, you find yourself in a setting that is right for innovation.”

Chan also recognized the “valley of death” many energy entrepreneurs face in developing their technologies. She emphasized the three-prong approach DOE takes to addressing this challenge: programs, training and awareness-raising.

“Ultimately, driving commercialization and navigating through the valley of death requires public-private partnerships,” she said. “No one organization can drive through it on their own.”

During the audience Q&A, Chan answered questions on a range of topics, including one on how TAEBC can support her department and help the new administration achieve its goals.

“I would love for you guys to be reaching out to us regarding priorities you might have,” she answered.

Featured panel: Energy Mentor Network Spotlight

Next, the 2021 Annual Meeting featured an Energy Mentor Network Spotlight Panel about a recent DOE funding announcement. Earlier this year, DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy awarded $6 million through the Building Technologies Proving Ground – Public Sector Field Validation Funding Opportunity to seven state and local governments for advanced building technologies, including the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC).

TDEC partnered with Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), an Energy Mentor Network graduate, to validate SMTI’s gas absorption hot water heat pump technology in a commercial setting. Other partners for the project include TAEBC, the National Association of State Energy Officials, the Gas Technology Institute and ORNL.

During the panel, Michael Garrabrant, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SMTI, and Ryan Stanton, Senior Consultant for Strategic Energy Initiatives at TDEC, spoke about the importance of Garrabrant’s technology, specifics of the project and the value of the Energy Mentor Network. It was Stanton’s connection to Garrabrant through the Energy Mentor Network that led to their eventual partnership.

“It demonstrates the impact the Energy Mentor Network can have on partnerships like this,” said Stanton. “Stone Mountain has developed this fantastic technology and it was a great opportunity to showcase it at a public building.”

Garrabrant echoed the value of SMTI going through the Energy Mentor Network, saying, “I don’t think it was a coincidence that during that period we were able to raise our first seed round of about $3 million from a strategic investor.”

Award ceremony: 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award

TAEBC awarded TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe with the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award. The annual award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.

“Today I’m humbled, I’m honored and most grateful to receive the Tom Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award,” said Rolfe in a pre-recorded statement.

Rolfe was selected for the award due to the instrumental role he’s played in bringing jobs in advanced energy to the state, particularly in electric vehicle manufacturing. Rolfe has spearheaded the goal of making Tennessee the top state in the country for electric vehicle manufacturing, as well as speaking and meeting with automotive manufacturers across the country to attract them here.

“Bob Rolfe has been a tremendous partner to TAEBC and the state’s impressive electric vehicle supply chain,” said Piper. “He is essential to making Tennessee a national leader in EV manufacturing and the advanced energy workforce. We’re excited for continued growth in advanced energy with the leadership from Commissioner Rolfe and all the efforts by TAEBC members and partners across the state.”

In 2019, TAEBC bestowed the first-ever award to Tom Ballard himself, during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub. The next year, TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the 2020 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting.

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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, here is an Advanced Energy 101, focusing 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.