Cortney Piper headshotBy Cortney Piper, Executive Director 

It’s an incredible time to be involved in the advanced energy industry in Tennessee. 

In August, the Tennessee Valley Authority announced a $25 billion investment to build additional generation and upgrade its existing system, including adding 10,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2035.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee formed the Tennessee Nuclear Energy Advisory Council to create a nuclear energy ecosystem. Recently, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm, visited the Clinch River Nuclear Site with TVA CEO Lyash to highlight the potential of small modular reactors to bring carbon-free power to the Valley.

The momentum toward an electric vehicle (EV) future also ramped up. This month, Pilot Company and General Motors launched an EV charging network. Meanwhile, the Knoxville Utilities Board is testing new technology, and Chattanooga continues to become smarter and more connected by the day.

There has been so much advanced energy activity worth celebrating.

TAEBC: Champion of Tennessee’s advanced energy economy 

Much like the industry’s growth, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council reached new heights in 2023. We expanded our reach, added new voices and formed new partnerships. Our current trajectory is poised to accomplish even more in 2024 and beyond.

We were lucky to add three new board members to our Leadership Team. Thank you to Heath Jones of Hitachi Zosen Innova, Monique Parker of Piedmont Lithium, and Angela Chan of Schneider Electric for your guidance and passion for TAEBC’s mission.

TAEBC prides itself on being a membership-driven organization. We added 21 new members – up from 13 new members in 2022. Recent additions include Google, Piedmont Lithium, Co.Lab, the Nature Conservancy, and many others. 

One of the benefits TAEBC provides our members is our events. I hope you were one of the 600+ people who have registered for our 2023 events, including the 2023 Annual Meeting and Opportunities in Energy – both bigger than ever. 

At Opportunities in Energy, we awarded the 2023 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award to Dr. Mina Sartipi, founding director of UT Chattanooga’s Center for Urban Informatics and Progress.

We also expanded our digital reach. Energizing Tennesee, powered by TAEBC and FirstBank, released eight podcast episodes. We grew our email subscribers to over 1,700 and social media following to nearly 3,500. We also launched a TikTok account for the podcast! Check it out.  

Please continue reading to see the other ways we fulfilled each of our four commitments to our members. 

1. Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs

Solar energy development can bring many economic and community development benefits to cities and counties across Tennessee. In June, we hosted a webinar for over 100 attendees about solar energy for economic development. Missed it? View it here.

At Opportunities in Energy, we featured former governors Lamar Alexander and Phil Bredesen, discussing the evolution of the state’s automotive industry. 

We also covered this topic on several podcast episodes, including discussions with Silicon Ranch Corporation, Piedmont Lithium, Hitachi Zosen Inova, and Modine. Subscribe now to catch our monthly episodes!

2. Support TVA and local power companies’ efforts to become the energy companies of the future

TAEBC was honored to accept a position on TVA’s IRP Working Group, in addition to the TVA Valley Pathway Study Committee and the Information Exchange Working Group.

This summer, TAEBC and the East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) invited TVA’s Greg Boerschig, vice president of the Clinch River Project, to speak about TVA’s small modular reactor plan and how advanced nuclear reactors fit into its decarbonization strategy. If you missed it, watch it here.

Additionally, Episode 13 featured Senior Reporter Julian Spector of Canary Media discussing TVA’s decarbonization journey. Listen in to hear his unique, outside view of the clean energy transition in the Southeast. 

3. Foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups

2023 was an excellent year for advanced energy technologies and startups. We started the year with a podcast episode about the value of mentorship in keeping startups in our state with Harvey Abouelata, formerly of Solar Alliance, and Dr. Bianca Bailey of Agriwater. I also spoke with ETEC’s Tracy Boatner and Mike Laufer, CEO of Kairos Power, about advanced nuclear innovation and what an advanced nuclear future looks like for our region.

Over the summer, Innovation Crossroads partnered with the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, a 12-week program at the University of Tennessee Research Park. 13 companies were paired with mentors from TAEBC’s Energy Network and gave their final pitches at Opportunities in Energy. 

In FY2023, the Energy Network worked with 54 mentors (up seven from last year) and 17 startups. These startups raised $54 million and created or retained over 140 jobs. We have served 47 companies, many of which have remained in the state. 

TAEBC and the UT Spark Innovation Center also partnered with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) to provide Tennessee cleantech startups with additional sources of debt capital to support their growth. 

LACI’s Cleantech Debt Fund is a first-of-its-kind green loan program to grow early-stage cleantech startups to accelerate equitable climate action. Learn more or apply on our website. 

4. Inform the national energy agenda

Though focused on Tennessee, TAEBC keeps its eye on the national energy agenda. Earlier this year, TAEBC became a core member of TEAM TN, a National Science Foundation-funded initiative that will place Tennessee at the leading edge of advanced mobility. 

At Opportunities in Energy, Misty Mayes, CEO of Management Solutions, discussed the significance of the $192 million contract awarded to Management Solutions and the pivotal role they are set to play in supporting the Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations.

In February, TAEBC participated in National Clean Energy Coalition Advocacy Day, where we joined other top clean energy incubators in Washington, D.C., to participate in meetings and activities that advocate for greater federal support for cleantech innovation. 

Looking ahead to 2024

I cannot thank our members, leadership and partners enough. Your expertise, connections and enthusiasm for advanced energy make our work possible. I am eager to see what we can accomplish in 2024. 

Furthermore, TAEBC releases an Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report every three years. These reports provide context for decisions by public officials and private sector leaders to make lasting contributions to Tennessee’s economic base for the next decade and beyond.

We will produce our 2024 report later next year. Watch our digital channels and attend our events to hear about its release. 

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