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.

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.

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Volkswagen, UTK, and ORNL to create innovation hub at UT Research Park

Volkswagen, the University of Tennessee, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have partnered to create the automaker’s first innovation hub in North America. The hub will be located at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. Key stakeholders recently held a press conference at UT Research Park to announce the collaboration and hold a formal ribbon cutting ceremony. 

According to the official press release, the collaboration involves research opportunities for doctoral students with initial work focused on creating lighter vehicle components made from composite materials, electric vehicles, and other innovative automotive pursuits. 

Randy Boyd, President, University of Tennessee speaking

“Working with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a great opportunity to continue growing Volkswagen’s engineering footprint in the North American region,” said Wolfgang Demmelbauer-Ebner, VW’s executive vice president and chief engineering officer for the region. “This hub, along with other research institutions here, is an integral part of Volkswagen’s global research and development efforts and can also directly contribute to vehicles in North America.”

Volkwagen first partnered with the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, when it opened its Chattanooga Assembly plant in 2011. In late 2019, the automaker broke ground on a $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. 

TAEBC welcomes advanced energy solutions and partnerships like the innovation hub. This opportunity reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in the country, as previously stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner.

Drive Electric Tennessee Needs Assessment Released for Statewide Charging Infrastructure

Drive Electric Tennessee published the Statewide Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Needs Assessment in November, following the release of the first edition of its Electric Vehicle Roadmap on January 18, 2019. The Roadmap set a goal to boost EV adoption to 200,000 by 2028 and identified projects and initiatives local stakeholders can implement to increase EV adoption statewide. 

The purpose of the assessment was to analyze the state’s current electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and find where new chargers should be placed to promote the continued adoption of EVs. According to the assessment, the main questions explored in the project include:

  • What is the coverage, usage, and state of repair of current charging infrastructure in Tennessee?
  • What are the plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) charging infrastructure needs in the state to support goal of 200,000 PEVs in Tennessee by 2028?
  • What gaps exist between the current infrastructure and future infrastructure needs?

To address these questions, the executive summary of the assessment is divided into four parts. According to the summary, the scope and key takeaways from each of these four parts are as follows:

  1. Baseline Light-Duty Assessment: In a research study of available data complemented by a field survey of 48 charging sites across the state, the assessment discovered:
    • 87 percent of surveyed charging sites were fully operational, matching public data from Plugshare.
    • There are opportunities for improvement with both user and host experience.
  2. EV Charging Use Case Tracks: Navigant’s VAST network siting optimization tool was used to identify potential geographic areas for charging infrastructure in order to meet the 200,000 EV goal. The assessment produced two maps of potential geographic areas for EV charging infrastructure to support deployment goals, which are:
    • Fast charging network map: Concentrated on or near corridors and high demands sites.
    • Level 2 charging network map: Complementary stations at fast charging sites and the majority of remaining use case tracks. 
  3. Use Case Prioritization: Through an evaluation of charging use cases based on market attractiveness and social impact, the assessment found that:
    • Primary market charging sites are more likely to attract private investment.
    • Corridor and secondary market sites may not attract private investment and are good candidates for public funding.
    • Multi-family sites are both attractive to private investment and have high social impact.
  4. Program Benchmarking: Data was collected on demographics, market development, utility programs, state EV policy, and outreach efforts across state and utility programs with attributes most relevant to the Tennessee market. The assessment found:
    • Broad stakeholder support is important to increase EV adoption.
    • Education and outreach efforts are important to successful programs.
    • Utility investment in make-ready infrastructure and EV rates are common in utility programs.

As TAEBC wrote earlier this year, advanced energy solutions, such as the adoption of clean transportation solutions, present economic development and job creation opportunities for the state. This newly released assessment highlights the value of moving forward with EV projects outlined in the Roadmap and establishing Tennessee as a powerhouse for EV manufacturing and use.

This goal was realized in November, when Volkswagen broke ground on its $800 million EV expansion at its Chattanooga plant, which will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the region.

Volkswagen breaks ground on electric vehicle expansion at Chattanooga plant

Volkswagen recently broke ground on its $800 million expansion of its Chattanooga Assembly Plant that will produce two battery-powered cars and create 1,000 new jobs in the area. Construction is projected to take 17 months and hiring will begin at the end of 2020.

Around 200 company and auto industry representatives, state and local officials, plant employees, and members of the media gathered for the groundbreaking ceremony on November 13.

“This is a big, big moment for this company,” said Scott Keogh, president and CEO of Volkswagen Group of America, in a prepared statement. “Expanding local production sets the foundation for our sustainable growth in the U.S. Electric vehicles are the future of mobility and Volkswagen will build them for millions of people.”

The factory expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop and another 198,000 square feet for an assembly site for the vehicles’ electric battery packs. Tom du Plessis, CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga said the plant is expected to produce over 100,000 electric vehicles (EVs) a year, with the possibly for 200,000, depending on the market.

Volkswagen currently produces its midsize Atlas SUV and the Passat sedan at the Chattanooga facility. Production for its EVs should begin in early 2022, where the first model will be an all-electric crossover based on the I.D. CROZZ Concept. It will be the first EV produced in the country using Volkswagen’s MEB platform.

This Volkswagen groundbreaking also further reinforces the state’s goal of becoming the top electric vehicle producer in America, as stated by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee Economic and Community Development Commissioner. Rolfe was quoted in the Chattanooga Times Free Press, “Our goal is to be at the forefront of all electric vehicle manufacturing and the suppliers that will wrap around.”