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Start-up accelerators, “Blue Oval City” and ESG highlight yesterday’s TAEBC “Opportunities in Energy” event

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Yesterday’s eighth annual “Opportunities in Energy” event offered a mix of topics that should have whetted the appetite of almost anyone interested in the advanced energy economy and its future in the Volunteer State.

Hosted by the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC), panels focused on start-up accelerators (see today’s feature article), the recently released “Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report,” the massive “Blue Oval City” project in West Tennessee, and the rapidly emerging topic of ESG (environmental, social and governance). A recording of the entire roughly two-hour event has been posted on TAEBC’s website.

Susan Peluso

Ahead of the panel discussions, Susan Peluso, Director of Business Development and Network Partnerships at Verizon, addressed the topic of the “Future of Networks” and their implications for the advanced energy sector. “5G can super-charge the electrical grid,” Peluso told attendees. “The energy sector is among the most significant test cases for 5G-enabling technologies.”

TAEBC Board Member Steve Seifried, Tennessee Account Executive for Ameresco, moderated the ESG panel that featured: (1) Nicole Bulgarino, Ameresco Executive Vice President, Ameresco; (2) Adam James, Environmental Coordinator at Tennsco; and (3) Lisa Lujan, Environmental, Health, & Safety Manager at Clayton Homes.

In response to Siefried’s question about what motivated Clayton’s ESG commitment, Lujan said, “It’s our people.” James talked about the willingness of Tennsco to “step out from its peers. We are always striving to be good corporate citizens.” Bulgarino described “a perfect storm” that includes everything from technological evolutions to price reductions in technology and resiliency factors that “resonate with people.”

Chassen Hayes, Director of Business Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, moderated the panel of “Blue Oval City” – the largest investment ever made in the U.S. in electric vehicles at one time by any automotive manufacturer. Ford Motor Company plans to invest $11.4 billion in the all new mega campus in Stanton in Haywood County that will result in the creation of approximately 6,000 jobs.

Gabby Bruno, Ford’s Regional Director of Government Relations, cited three key factors in the automaker’s decision to select the Memphis Megasite: (1) the site itself; (2) financial support along with partner commitments; and (3) commitment to workforce. Other panelists included Ray Knotts, TVA’s Senior Manager for Commercial Energy Solutions, and Mark Herbison, President and Chief Executive Officer of HTL Advantage, a three-county (Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale) economic development coalition.

Jill Welch, Research Associate at the Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy, reviewed the findings of the latest “Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.” Released every three years, the report has a number of important findings.

“The advanced energy sector has grown at a faster pace than the overall state economy,” Welsh said. Perhaps most illustrative of its impact is the average annual salary of $63,586 which is 33 percent higher that the statewide average for all other jobs.

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