By Cortney Piper, Executive Director

The past year has been an exciting one for the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. From Ford announcing its $5.6 billion investment in electrification to TAEBC partnering with the University of Tennessee Research Park for the launch of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, the advanced energy industry in our state is truly booming.  

This year, TAEBC released its 2021 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, finding that advanced energy contributes $45.8 billion to our state’s GDP, employs 393,756 Tennesseans and outpaces the growth of the overall state economy. These findings validate everything TAEBC believes and is striving for – the advanced energy industry creates jobs and massively contributes to economic development growth.

Operationally, we added three new board members to our leadership team: Dr. Robert Hardin of WACKER Polysilicon, Katina Stavrou of Schneider Electric and Wolfgang Maluche of Volkswagen Group of America. Their outlook and guidance will help us grow and find new ways to champion the advanced energy sector. We also redesigned our website, expanded our digital presence and revamped our branding to better communicate our mission and celebrate advanced energy – so don’t forget to follow our new Instagram account!

TAEBC’s commitments to you, our members, leadership and stakeholders, remain as strong as ever. Before the end of the year, I wanted to share some highlights of the ways we have fulfilled each of our four commitments in 2021.

Inform the national energy agenda

TAEBC is dedicated to furthering the advanced energy industry by informing the national agenda. At our Annual Meeting, Vanessa Z. Chan, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Chief Commercialization Officer & Director of the Office of Technology Transitions, heard from our panelists and spoke about her office’s vision and specific ways DOE supports the energy sector. 

In March, TAEBC signed on to an updated $150 billion stimulus proposal, spearheaded by the Transportation Electrification Partnership (TEP). Later, TAEBC voiced its support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that funds critical investments in advanced energy infrastructure and has the potential to reinforce our state’s position as a leader in this crucial sector. 

Support TVA and our LPCs

One of our other commitments to our members is to support the Tennessee Valley Authority and our local power companies’ efforts in becoming energy companies of the future. To do so, we continued our annual TVA Lunch and Learn series, inviting TVA Chief Executive Officer and President Jeff Lyash to speak and answer a range of questions about the utility’s electric vehicle efforts and nuclear fleet.

In November, we held another Advanced Energy 101 for LPCs webinar. We invited the Paris Board of Public Utilities, Silicon Ranch Corporation and TVA to speak about a flexibility project in Henry County. Following the event, Terry Wimberly, President and CEO of Paris BPU, penned a guest column about why LPCs should pursue flexibility projects and what they should know.

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

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy, which includes the state’s efforts to become the number one state in the country for the EV supply chain. A key figure in making this goal a reality is Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe, who TAEBC awarded with the 2021 Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award at our Annual Meeting.

Throughout the year, we hosted three Advanced Energy Business Roundtables and one Statewide Incentives Webinar to create a cohesive statewide network for the EV supply chain and cultivate an advanced energy economy to attract and retain new businesses. Most notably, we released our third Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report, which built on findings from TAEBC’s 2015 and 2018 reports. The report reiterates what I stated in my January guest column for the Knoxville News Sentinel: advanced energy means jobs for Tennesseans.

Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups

Supporting advanced energy technologies and startups is an essential part of TAEBC’s mission. This year, seven startups graduated from the Energy Mentor Network, a partnership between TAEBC and Launch Tennessee. One EMN graduate and current TAEBC member, SkyNano Technologies, worked with LaunchTN, TNECD and other stakeholders to champion the restoration of the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund, an important form of support for growing startups, to Tennessee’s 2021-2022 Budget.

At our end-of-the-year Opportunities in Energy event, we hosted a panel about cleantech accelerators in East Tennessee, featuring leaders from Innovation Crossroads, Techstars Industries of the Future and the Spark Cleantech Accelerator, which is now accepting applications for its first cohort. 

There are far too many other exciting developments from the year I could not include today. But as 2021 draws to a close, I want to thank our members, new and old, for being part of TAEBC’s important work to champion the advanced energy economy. As a membership-driven organization, we are thankful for your insight and passion for this crucial industry. 

Have a wonderful holiday season! I look forward to continuing our work championing Tennessee’s robust advanced energy economy in 2022.

Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about our members, advanced energy news and upcoming events. Also, if you’re not already a member, become a member today!