Middle Tennessee Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable highlights private-public partnerships, transportation electrification initiatives

Stakeholders from government agencies, higher education, and the private sector emphasized the value of the state’s advanced energy economy and opportunities for future development and collaboration

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its second Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable, this time focused on Middle Tennessee stakeholders. The event brought together 10 speakers representing three main areas of the state’s advanced energy (AE) economy: government agencies, higher education, and the private sector.

Government Agencies

David Salyers, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), kicked off the event by speaking about the value of EV adoption for the environment and economy, along with the TN Corridor Fast Charging Network, a new partnership between TDEC and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We strongly support the goal of becoming the number one state in the country for the EV supply chain,” said Salyers. “We are committed to providing a cleaner, safer environment, and are supportive of more efficient modes of transportation that can reduce emissions, improve air quality, decrease transportation-related energy costs, and drive economic plus job growth across our state.”

Representing the federal perspective, Chris Berryman, Senior Target Market Specialist at TVA, discussed the wide-reaching economic impacts EVs can have on the state’s economy from the EV manufacturing project to the supply chain. He also discussed the effects of EVs on the utility sector and on TVA in particular.

“TVA, along with its State Economic Development Partners, are currently working on approximately $25 billion of new EV manufacturing projects,” said Berryman. “These projects are considering the TVA’s seven-state region along with other competing States in the Southeastern U.S. This equates to a potential job creation of approximately 35,000 new jobs.”

Next, Van Tucker, Chief Executive Officer of Launch Tennessee, spoke about the organization’s many network partners, including the statewide entrepreneur centers and the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with LaunchTN. She also provided an update about the restoration of State Matching Funds for federal SBIR/STTR grant recipients across the state.

“Those funds are important because federal funds are restricted as to how those dollars can be spent,” said Tucker. “The State Matching Funds are unrestricted and can be used for things like hiring a business development officer, launching a website, or even hiring an attorney to secure your IP. As a company, you’re able to use those funds that really help grow and scale a business.”

Wrapping up the government agency portion of presentations, Victoria Hirschberg, Director of Business Development at Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), spoke about TNECD’s mission to make the state a leader in the EV supply chain and referred to the sector as a “very fluid and active.”

“There is a lot going on in our state and I’m really proud to be part of it,” said Hirschberg. “I think as we continue to build out this network and talk to companies that are interested in doing business, having meetings like this is so important.”

Higher Education

Both Flora Tydings, Chancellor of Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and Claude Pressnell, President of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), returned for the second Business Roundtable to discuss higher education’s role in the AE sector.

Tydings provided an overview of TBR’s mission, AE programming, and how TBR received an additional $80 million from the state’s budget to increase what the system is doing with technical education, reduce the technical education waitlist, and look directly at what they are doing in the AE sector.

“We are always looking toward the economic development of our state,” said Tydings. “We are dedicated to making sure we place students. Right now, our rate for placement is at 89 percent. So, if you graduate from one of our programs, 89 percent of our students have received a job immediately after graduation in their field of study.”

Following Tydings’ presentation, Pressnell gave an overview of TICUA campuses and students, various public-private partnerships across the state, and engineering programs that were created to specifically meet the needs of local employers.

“The focus on science, the focus on technology is pretty critical to us. We rely very heavily upon corporate advisory committees to be able to shape our curriculum so that we can meet the needs of local and statewide employers,” said Pressnell. “We are very responsive to the corporate needs in the area.”

Private Sector

Moving into the private sector portion of the webinar, Jim DeMouy, Vice President of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at Bridgestone Americas and TAEBC Board Member, highlighted Bridgestone’s environmental mission and key milestones, along with renewable energy goals for its operations, products and technologies. DeMouy also highlighted two of the company’s environmental milestones it is set to reach by 2030.

“One is to increase the recycled and renewable content of our products to 40% by 2030,” said DeMouy. “The second was to move to an absolute emissions reduction, which again goes to the energy discussions we’re having here, by 50 percent by 2030.”

Finally, two representations from Nissan Group of Americas closed the presentation portion of the event. Chris Goddard, Manager of Energy and Environmental, and Mike Clemmer, Director of Corporate & Manufacturing Facilities and Environmental, presented about Nissan’s efforts to accelerate toward carbon neutrality and electrification, including EVs, battery innovations, intelligent factories, and a greener energy supply.

“Like a lot of companies, earlier this year, globally, we made the announcement to be carbon neutral by 2050. If you look at just Tennessee operations, we have improved our efficiency by close to 40 percent,” said Goddard. “And we’re very excited about the electrification of our fleet.”

Following presentations, speakers answered a range of audience questions on building up the infrastructure of the state’s AE economy, EV supply chain efforts, private-public partnership, workforce development, and recent electrification updates across the state.

“It was really exciting to join TVA earlier this year by trying to remove some of the barriers to adoption,” said Commissioner Salyers about the launch of the TN Corridor Fast Charging Network and future EV initiatives.

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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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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!

Deadline for nominations: 2019 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards

TDEC is inviting Tennesseans to submit nominations for the 2019 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards, which honor outstanding accomplishments that support the protection and enhancement of Tennessee’s natural resources. “Being good stewards of our state’s resources is part of what makes Tennessee the beautiful and remarkable place it is,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “These awards help show that we all can do our part, and I can’t wait to see the potential solutions that individual Tennesseans come up with.”

Nominations are currently being accepted for the 2019 awards, which include the following categories: Building Green; Clean Air; Energy and Renewable Resources; Environmental Education and Outreach (for both school and non-school projects); Land Use; Materials Management; Natural Heritage; Sustainable Performance; and Lifetime Achievement.

Alternative fuel vehicles and sustainable transportation projects could be eligible under several categories, including under Clean Air or Energy and Renewable Resources. Any individual, business, organization, educational institution, or agency is eligible for nomination, provided it is located in Tennessee and the project was completed during the 2018 calendar year. A panel of judges will select award recipients based on criteria including level of project or program completion, innovation, and public education. The deadline for nominations is April 30, and winners will be announced in June. Contact Kathy Glapa at (615) 253-8780 or GESA.Awards@tn.gov with any questions.