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June 09, 2021 | Tom Ballard

TAEBC’s latest “Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable” focuses on EVs and the environment

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The focus was on electric vehicles and the environment as the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) held its latest virtual event yesterday morning.

This one, focused on Middle Tennessee but applicable to the entire state, was the second of three “Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtables” that the organization is hosting in 2021. As described in this post, the first one was held in April with the spotlight on West Tennessee, and the third one is set for October with a focus on East Tennessee. TAEBC will also host a two-hour “Statewide Energy Incentives Webinar” beginning at 10 a.m. EDT/9 a.m. CDT on August 3.

The early speakers during yesterday’s program focused on the State of Tennessee and its goal to become the #1 state in the country for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing and the related supply chain. The Volunteer State already holds that ranking among states in the southeast.

David Salyers, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), was the first of nine speakers who addressed some aspect of electrification, the environment or both. He pointed to the Drive Electric Tennessee initiative which is focused on increasing the number of EVs on Tennessee’s roadways to 200,000 by 2028. For comparative purposes, the number was less than 5,000 in 2017.

How realistic is the goal of becoming #1 in the nation? Chris Berryman, TVA’s Senior Target Market Specialist, cited some amazing statistics, saying the agency is working closely with TDEC and the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), as well as partners in the other six states that TVA serves, on EV-related recruitment projects totaling $25 billion in capital investment and 35,000 new jobs.

Those significant opportunities were underscored by Victoria Hirschberg, Director of Business Development at ECD. “We are very focused on the EV supply chain,” she said, noting the announcement in April of the state’s third lithium battery manufacturer. It is Ultium Cells, a venture between LG and GM.

The national goal is further advanced by the fact that all three of the automotive original equipment manufacturers in Tennessee either already produce or have announced plans to produce EVs. The pioneer in that sector was Nissan with its Leaf.

Hirschberg also mentioned that it was not just established companies on which ECD is focused, noting the important role that Launch Tennessee plays in helping with start-ups. Much of the organization’s funding comes from ECD. Van Tucker, Launch Tennessee’s President and Chief Executive Officer, had earlier described its programs that include the “Energy Mentor Network” managed by TAEBC.

“It’s a busy but exciting time,” Hirschberg said. “We must have sites, and the needs (of the prospects) are very different including the job skills they require.”

Both Flora Tydings, Chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and Claude Pressnell Jr., President of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association, spoke to the roles their respective institutions play in the all-important workforce development arena.

“We have 110 program of study having competencies in this sector (advanced energy) in Middle Tennessee alone,” Tydings said. For local readers who may not know, TBR is the system that includes community colleges and the Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology.

Environment was on the minds of the final three speakers.

  • Jim DeMouy, Vice President of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at Bridgestone Americas, talked about both the strategies that undermine its plans and the progress that his company with a large Tennessee footprint is making in reducing its CO2
  • Mike Clemmer, Director/Plant Manager for Paints and Plastics, and Chris Goddard, Manager of Energy and Environmental, both with Nissan, discussed Nissan’s plans to be carbon neutral by 2050 and also mentioned the corporation’s newest EV – the Nissan Ariya – that will be introduced in either late 2021 or early 2022.

Here’s a screenshot with the speakers and TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper who served as moderator.


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