The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council hosted its annual Opportunities in Energy event virtually this week. The event featured TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe, a panel discussion about making Tennessee the destination for the electric vehicle supply chain, and preview of the upcoming Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.
TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the festivities by providing an overview of TAEBC’s mission and accomplishments in 2020. She spoke about challenges the state faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic and how Tennessee is uniquely positioned to capitalize on transportation electrification to help with economic recovery efforts
“Transportation electrification and advanced energy could and should be used as job creation and economic development opportunities to help us rise out of our current crisis,” she said.
Commissioner Rolfe spoke about the importance of recruiting original equipment manufacturers to the Tennessee region, Tennessee’s automotive accomplishments, and the Drive Electric Tennessee initiative. He emphasized that the state is committed to becoming an electric vehicle transportation leader in the southeast.
After his presentation, Commissioner Rolfe was joined by John Hopkins, CEO of IACMI; Mike Swords, Vice President of Government Affairs and International Relations at the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator; and moderator Tom Rogers, President and CEO of the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm, for a panel session, “Tennessee’s EVolution: Making the state a destination for the electric vehicle supply chain.”
Panelists spoke about the importance of electrification efforts, areas of opportunity, and important steps the state can take to accelerate its goal to be the top state in the country for electric vehicle manufacturing. Answering a question about how Tennessee can reach this goal, Commissioner Rolfe said, “The short answer is to recruit, recruit, and recruit.”
“When we are recruiting, we want to showcase what Tennessee’s great strengths are,” he continued. These strengths include low business taxes, a high quality of living, affordable housing, and being considered one of the most “business friendly states” in the country.
During the discussion, Swords spoke about a $150 billion federal stimulus proposal by the Transportation Electrification Partnership and LACI. TAEBC signed on to this proposal in July. Swords complimented Tennessee on its investment in transportation electrification.
“It seems like there really is an aggressive push to achieve some of these big strategic goals for the state and it sounds like you are being quite successful so far,” said Swords.
Afterward, Piper moderated a panel discussion about the 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report with Matt Murray, Director of Howard H. Baker Jr. Center; Amy Henry, Director, Transformative Innovation at the Tennessee Valley Authority; and Marc Gibson, Associate Vice Chancellor of Research at University of Tennessee.
Murray started with an overview of the 2018 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report and discussed the process for creating it. Speaking about the 2018 report, Murray said the advanced energy economy has been “remarkable in terms of its economic performance.”
“The advanced energy sector in Tennessee is growing at a much more rapid pace than other segments of the economy and at a faster rate than the economy as a whole,” said Murray. According to the 2018 report, employment in the sector grew by 10.3 percent, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3 percent, since 2013.
Panelists discussed the importance of this data and how the report can help further advanced energy opportunities in the state. Answering a question about how vital institutions such as UT and TVA can use this data, Gibson explained, “This data is critical for us. We look at it holistically.”
“I think if we can create that ecosystem and develop something that is statewide, we can make something that is very attractive for industry and others to look at the state of Tennessee as a landing spot,” said Gibson. “We want to be right in the middle of that. I think we have a responsibility to the state and really the region to do that.”