Future is bright for clean energy in Tennessee

Our latest Opinion Piece is online, read below or follow the link to read it on the Tennessean Website.

Many more Tennesseans work in clean energy than you may realize.
A new study shows that Tennessee is a leader in clean energy job creation, and recent policy developments could accelerate clean energy job growth significantly.
The EPA recently released the final version of the Clean Power Plan, the first federal rule limiting existing power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions – the leading pollutant driving manmade climate change.
This represents a giant leap in the right direction for Tennessee and the nation as a whole. The Clean Power Plan will lead America into a cleaner energy future with improved air quality and public health, along with initiatives to significantly reduce utility bills paid by residents and businesses.

However, another important benefit of the Clean Power Plan is that it is expected to cause a boom in clean energy job creation.
Tennessee is already a hotbed for clean energy jobs, with nearly 45,000 people employed in energy efficiency, renewable energy, alternative transportation and greenhouse gas management and accounting. Tennessee’s clean energy sector significantly outpaces the broad economy. Clean energy jobs increased 6.3 percent in 2014 – roughly three times the 2.2 percent rate of overall job creation in Tennessee. Those are among the key findings in a report recently released by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), entitled “Clean Jobs Tennessee: Sizing Up Tennessee’s Clean Energy Jobs Base and its Potential.”
The report presents the results of a statewide survey conducted by BW Research, which contacted 16,000 employers in April and May 2015. E2 has released similar reports in several other states, and the Congressional Research Office has recognized BW Research’s methodology for providing the most accurate data available to date.
It is clear that clean energy is a major growth sector, and Tennessee has one of the highest rates of clean energy job creation. Tennessee also stands out for our particularly large clean – energy manufacturing sector, which indicates a strong export economy that could expand to serve the increased demand for clean energy in other states as the Clean Power Plan is implemented.
Tennessee manufacturing jobs make up 28.7 percent of our clean energy work force, followed by a 10.5 percent manufacturing share in Pennsylvania, the next­‐leading state.
As a principal at local clean energy employer Freeman Applegate Partners, I can attest to the impact of Nashville’s clean energy economy.
Our firm specializes in energy efficiency and sustainable commercial building practices, offering turnkey solutions to cutting operational expenditures, performing construction, and advising on long­term operations and maintenance planning. By helping our clients cut utility costs, we also help them to hire the talent they need.
Lower utility bills means more competitive businesses, lower prices for Tennessee – made goods and services, more money for residents to spend in the local economy, and job creation well beyond direct employment in the clean energy industry.
A recent example of leadership from Governor Haslam illustrates the value that clean energy investments can provide. The new EmPower TN initiative is expected to save taxpayers $1 billion by 2035 with a $200 million initial investment in energy efficiency and solar energy. Its goal is to reduce utility operating costs at state­‐run buildings by 28 percent over the next eight years.
The future is bright for Tennessee’s clean energy economy, especially with the support of smart policies. While EmPower TN focuses on state – run buildings, the Clean Power Plan also encourages utilities, local governments and the private sector to take advantage of money – saving clean energy opportunities.
Surveyed employers expect to see 5.7 percent clean energy job growth during 2015, and many identified the Clean Power Plan as an important driver for additional job creation. However, the Clean Power Plan offers states many compliance pathways, and it is essential that Tennessee adopt a strategy focusing on money­‐saving energy efficiency and renewable energy.
As our leaders carve out the course of Tennessee’s energy future, they should keep in mind that more clean energy means more local jobs.

Bob Freeman is a principal at Freeman Applegate Partners in Nashville, Tenn., a company that provides clean energy solutions for businesses and industries looking to increase their energy efficiency and reduce their environmental impact. Mr. Freeman has 12 years of experience in construction specializing in green building practices and holds advanced degrees in his field from both MTSU and Lipscomb University.

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