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December 06, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

U.S. Secretary of Energy celebrates DOE investments in East Tennessee

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm traveled to Oak Ridge to meet with TVA Leadership to highlight the importance of advanced nuclear technologies.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm visited the Clinch River Nuclear Site in Oak Ridge, where Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) officials showcased the first small modular reactor producing carbon-free power. This visit highlights the potential construction of small modular reactors at the site. Small modular reactors are smaller and more cost-effective than traditional nuclear plants, with the ability to be built in clusters to match the output of closed coal-fired plants.

At the visit, Granholm said TVA and Tennessee are leading the way on new nuclear technology that could help the Biden administration reach its ambitious goals of a carbon-free national electric grid by 2035. The visit also aimed to underscore her commitment to advanced nuclear technologies, job creation, clean transportation, and the equitable distribution of the benefits of a clean energy future.

The occasion celebrated Tennessee’s victories, directly correlated with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Jennifer Granholm, U.S. DOE

Workforce Wins

Careers in energy help drive the Tennessee economy. In 2022, there were 209,951 people employed in the state’s energy sector. 50,017 of those workers were employed in the energy efficiency realm, supporting smart solutions for state-wide power generation. According to the DOE, these jobs are expected to increase. The Inflation Reduction Act’s investment in Tennessee is projected to bring $900 million in large-scale clean power generation and storage investment to the state between now and 2030.

Investment Wins

Commercial building owners can benefit from the Inflation Reduction Act, receiving a tax credit of up to $5 per square foot by supporting energy efficiency improvements. The DOE believes this will encourage more small businesses to explore opportunities in wind and solar power.

According to the DOE, Tennessee has 561 MW of solar and wind capacity, along with 2.5 GW of hydroelectric capacity and 5 GW of nuclear capacity. There is over 580 MW of additional planned solar energy capacity in the works in the state. This will double the amount of renewable energy available on the state’s grid. This progressive shift has the potential to power about 83,000 additional homes.

In the past three years, 23 facilities  opened in Tennessee with a commitment to battery and electric vehicle (EV) powering operations. These account for an additional $15 billion in state investment toward clean energy, and about 12,000 new jobs.

The state has received $18.8 million in federal investments to build more electric vehicle charging stations.

The DOE contributed more than $103.6 million this year to Tennessee’s government to encourage energy efficiency. Beyond that, five East Tennessee-based companies have received direct investments from the DOE totaling over $1 million.

Those companies include:

  • Novonix Anode Materials in Chattanooga secured $150 million to produce materials for EV batteries.
  • Piedmont Lithium in McMinn County secured $141 million to build a lithium hydroxide facility.
  • Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville secured $4.5 million to develop cheaper mobile charging stations for electric vehicles in rural areas.
  • Electric Power Research Institute in Knoxville secured $3.4 million for solar energy research.
  • Carbon Rivers in Knoxville secured $1.1 million to help recycle wind turbine blades.


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