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March 08, 2023 | Tom Ballard

It’s a good time to be in the advanced energy sector

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council's annual meeting spotlights progress in the sector that ranges from smart mobility in Chattanooga to companies happy to call Tennessee home, and a new initiative named TN GO.

It’s clearly a good time to be in the Volunteer State if you are in the advanced energy sector.

Whether it is Chattanooga’s efforts to build a smarter community by leveraging the EPB network and other assets or a new initiative that goes by the acronym of TN GO, those opportunities were on display Tuesday when the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its annual meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub in Franklin.

Roughly 70 people showed up to hear about those two programs and others during a nearly three-hour session. The event began with TAEBC’s Cortney Piper outlining significant progress in the past 12 months and describing several new initiatives for 2023. They included an expansion of the annual “Opportunities in Energy” event to a full day in November 2023, continuing the “Energizing Energy” podcast series, and preparing for the 2024 edition of TAEBC’s economic report that is produced every few years.

“Building a Smarter Chattanooga” featured a panel of four Chattanooga residents – two fairly new to the community – who spotlighted what and how their organizations are contributing to the effort.

  • Daniel Crawley, Strategic Planning Supervisor at EPB, noted that the gigabit network, funded in part by federal dollars during the 2008-09 economic recovery period, cost $232 million, but has generated a reported $2.7 billion economic impact in the past decade. That investment spurred the late November announcement of the EPB Quantum NetworkSM(see article here). It is the nation’s first industry-led, commercially available quantum network designed for private companies as well as government and university researchers.
  • Mina Sartipi, Director of the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress at the University of Tennessee (UT) at Chattanooga, is one of those Chattanoogans who has built a significant research program that leverages the gigabit network. Having started with a focus on connected and autonomous vehicles, she described evolving research interests that focus on energy, transportation, and people. One possibility is to use smart technology to direct those driving electric vehicles (EVs) to an optimal location for recharging based on availability rather than the current method that frequently involves trying to find a recharging port.
  • Tasia Malakasis, Chief Executive Officer of CO.LAB, described how she concluded in just a short time leading the entrepreneur center that it was “undeniable that we should focus on mobility.” The result is a mobility accelerator and the May 9-11 “MOBILITY Summit.”
  • Tyson Morris, Chief Information Officer for the City of Chattanooga, relocated from Atlanta a year ago and noted the Mayor’s commitment to innovation as well as how he has found Chattanooga to be a “wonderful community (of people) working together.”

Victoria, Hirschberg Assistant Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development at the UT System, described TN GO, short for “Transportation Network Growth Opportunity.” The previous recruiter for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development said that UT has joined with Vanderbilt University, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and Oak Ridge National Laboratory to create TN GO. She asked, “How do we bring it (Tennessee’s strong presence in mobility and automotive production) to the next level?” Hirschberg said the initiative, which should start July 1, will work to keep Tennessee a leader in automotive and EVs, not losing the state’s competitive edge to states like Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina.

“The global mobility transition is underway,” she said. “We want to do research that transforms lives. We want to be the leader in R&D.”

Other program elements included:

  • A panel describing a partnership in Paris involving Clearloop, EV manufacturer, Rivian, and the Paris Board of Public Utilities;
  • A presentation on microgrids by Schneider;
  • An update on TVA’s Integrated Resource Plan;
  • A presentation on the Center for Electrified and Autonomous Trucking at the University of Memphis; and
  • A panel of two industry representatives – one from Piedmont Lithium and the other from WACKER – described why they chose two East Tennessee locations and, in the case of WACKER, are continuing to expand here.

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