Tennessee is running greener and smarter in the quest to preserve natural resources while building more advanced energy jobs. Industry leaders gathered recently in Franklin, Tennessee, for the annual meeting of the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council. These included entrepreneurs, researchers, government officials and corporate leaders.
“A global mobility transition is underway,” said University of Tennessee System strategist Victoria Hirschberg, who is part of the steering committee that has helped inform a new effort called Transportation Network Growth Opportunity or TN Go.
The steering committee also includes the Tennessee Valley Authority, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Vanderbilt University. Hirschberg, who is the UT System’s assistant vice president of Research, Outreach and Economic Development, said TN Go is poised to launch July 1 of this year, motivated by new opportunities for Tennessee.
“This space is evolving quickly,” said Hirschberg, referring to auto manufacturing, electric vehicles and chargers, battery technology and potential to add higher wage jobs for Tennesseans. Hirschberg is connecting the UT System with the TAEBC to help the state improve on its already competitive edge in the transportation industry.
Growth is also the motivating theme behind the Tennessee Valley Authority’s ongoing efforts to shape its Integrated Resource Plan. At the conference, Curt Jawdy, senior manager of operational research, explained that more solar, energy storage, hydrogen, carbon capture and advanced nuclear will all be considered with stakeholders in an integrated resources planning effort that will be starting by fall.
Goals of keeping electricity reliable and affordable while reducing carbon releases and growing the regional economy will all be balanced.
“A high load-growth case could be a plausible scenario to consider,” Jawdy said, adding that the plan will support TVA’s founding mission to improve quality of life, “Because it will give people affordable, reliable power, steward the environment and help create jobs.”
New energy jobs are already heading to Tennessee through investments by companies like Piedmont Lithium, which is planning to locate the Tennessee Lithium Project in Etowah.
It received a special Department of Energy grant to support the innovation. Malissa Gordon, vice president of government affairs, spoke on a panel about the welcoming community her company found in McMinn County, as Piedmont plans this major effort to process lithium hydroxide for EV chargers. Monique Parker, Piedmont’s senior vice president of safety, environmental and health, has joined the TAEBC board.
Moderating the annual meeting, TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper affirmed that Tennessee was third in the nation in adding clean energy jobs last year, with advanced energy creating a $46 billion economic impact. TAEBC supports research, entrepreneurialism and skilled job creation. “We are the state’s champion for advanced energy,” said Piper. “We want Tennessee to be the number one location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.”