Presentations featured leaders from the U.S. Department of Energy’s new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations and UT Research Park’s Spark Cleantech Accelerator

Contact: Elena Brennan |

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On March 29, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its virtual 2022 Annual Member Meeting, sponsored by TAEBC Member Silicon Ranch Corporation. The theme of this year’s event was “strategic partnerships,” and featured speakers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, the University of Tennessee Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center, and Tennessee-based FirstBank.

TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper kicked off the event’s festivities by providing an overview of the TAEBC’s accomplishments in 2021 and gave a glimpse at priorities for the organization and events moving forward into 2022. She then announced new TAEBC Board Members and Officers, including TAEBC’s new President Steve Seifried, the Tennessee Account Executive for Ameresco.

“The past year has been an exciting one for the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. From automakers and electric vehicle battery manufacturers announcing billions in electrification investments, to TAEBC partnering with entrepreneurial organizations like the University of Tennessee Research Park for the launch of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, the advanced energy industry in our state is truly booming, outpacing the growth of the overall state economy. Looking ahead, I am optimistic that Tennessee’s goal of becoming the number one state in the country for the electric vehicle supply chain is indeed becoming a reality.”

Keynote Presentation: Melissa Klembara, DOE’s Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations

Featured speaker Melissa Klembara, the U.S. Department of Energy’s acting Deputy Director for Portfolio Strategy in the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED), spoke about her background, goals for the new Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations, and specific ways DOE supports advanced energy innovation.

Established under the bipartisan infrastructure bill signed into law last year, OCED will help move clean-energy technologies out of the lab and into local and regional economies across the country, proving the value of technologies that can deliver for communities, businesses, and markets. Klembara discussed the Office’s goal of hiring the best and brightest talent to invest in cutting edge clean energy projects, including clean hydrogen, carbon capture, grid-scale energy storage, small modular reactors, and more. 

“We hope that every dollar we invest in cleantech projects will have that follow-on effect of unlocking private sector capital, so that OCED becomes a center of excellence for clean energy commercialization pathways while ensuring sound project management oversight processes,” said Klembara.

During the audience Q&A, Klembara answered questions on a range of topics, including the size and scale of clean energy demonstration projects, forms of financing mechanisms the Office is exploring, and how TAEBC can support the new Office and help the Administration achieve its decarbonization goals.

Strategic Partnership Announcement: “Energizing Tennessee” Podcast, Powered by FirstBank

During the event, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper and FirstBank’s Nashville North Regional President Jim Mosby announced a new strategic partnership with the creation of “Energizing Tennessee,” the number one podcast for news about Tennessee’s advanced energy sector, launching this fall.

“We’ve heard from many energy entrepreneurs that access to capital is one of their biggest hurdles. Partnering with FirstBank will help TAEBC provide mentorship services and access points to capital for cleantech energy innovators across the state,” said Piper.

Piper and Mosby announced further details of the new podcast, including a focus on electrification and decarbonization strategies in the Tennessee Valley with episodes spanning a range of topics from Ford’s Blue Oval City to Tennessee’s Green Star Partnership and rural solar energy development to the future of clean hydrogen in meeting carbon reduction targets.

“On behalf of the Board Members, TAEBC would like to thank FirstBank for supporting our mission of championing advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy, which includes helping Tennessee become the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs,” said Piper. “To that end, we couldn’t be more excited about the launch of this podcast and partnership with FirstBank, which will help inform our nation’s workforce, policymakers, and industry leaders about the powerful role of advanced energy in our State’s economy.”

Featured Speaker: John Bruck, UT Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center

Members and participants also heard from John Bruck, TAEBC Entrepreneur-in-Residence and Director of UT Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center, who shared insights into the continued development of the Center, including the new Spark Cleantech Accelerator.

Bruck discussed the mission of the program and its goal of recruiting early-stage, high-growth business companies that aid the development of decarbonization and other technology solutions targeting the climate crisis while simultaneously supporting Tennessee’s advanced energy and circular economies. With applications due by April 11, Bruck said the program is excited to welcome its first cohort of startups in June 2022.

“The Energy Mentor Network, which TAEBC runs in partnership with Launch Tennessee, is perfectly positioned to help support these startups in the challenges they face, all the way through financial modeling and preparing for investor pitches. I’m not just hopeful, I’m confident the advanced energy ecosystem here in Tennessee will continue to grow,” said Bruck. 

The addition of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator makes the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region the only location in America to host three high profile energy-focused business accelerators (Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads, TechStars Industries of the Future, and now the SPARK Cleantech Accelerator).

Announcing the TAEBC “Powerhouse”

Piper also announced at the event a new TAEBC media initiative launching this spring, dubbed the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council “Powerhouse,” which will include advanced energy experts representing different industries within TAEBC’s leadership.

As TAEBC works to maintain its reputation as the number source of advanced energy news in Tennessee, the Powerhouse will serve as the ultimate expert resource for media outlets covering the advanced energy industry. Powerhouse members will participate in interviews, speaking engagements, conferences, and events around the region, serving as the premiere information source for media interested in advanced energy topics.

About Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council

TAEBC champions advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy. Advanced energy is technology neutral and includes electricity and transportation. Anything that makes energy cleaner, safer, more secure or more efficient is in the tent. No other entity in the state concentrates specifically on this robust sector. We educate public officials and business leaders about Tennessee’s advanced energy economy, establish strategic partnerships to connect assets with opportunities, and inform policy that expands and strengthens the industry. For more information, visit: