If you want to know more about energy efficiency, renewable energy and energy management solutions, you’ve come to the right place. The Tennessee Energy Education Initiative provides training, tools, and potential funding options to help Tennessee organizations take control of their energy usage. Learn how we can help yours.

TDEC Announces Rebates for Buyers, Lessees of Qualifying Electric Vehicles

Limited-time offer will be available for purchases or leases made after June 15

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Energy Programs today announced it will offer a two-tiered rebate on qualifying electric vehicles that are purchased or leased and registered in the State of Tennessee.

“Electric vehicles are a great alternative for Tennesseans looking to do their part in protecting the air we breathe,” TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau said. “This rebate program is a way to assist consumers making environmentally conscious transportation decisions.”

Electric vehicle dealerships will be responsible for providing the rebate to consumers after such funds are received from the State. The State will rebate $2,500 on zero-emission battery electric vehicles and $1,500 on plug-in hybrid electric vehicles sold or leased (with a three-year minimum lease term) by a Tennessee dealership to Tennessee residents, after a claim is filed by the dealership.

For the purposes of this rebate, battery electric vehicles are defined as fully electric, zero-emission vehicles that have an on-board electrical energy storage device that can be recharged from an external source of electricity. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have zero-emission vehicle range capability and an onboard electrical energy storage device that can be recharged from an external source of electricity. In general, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can be driven using electricity, gasoline or both.

There is currently $682,500 available for this second iteration of the electric vehicle rebate program. The rebate program will go into effect for vehicle purchases or leases made after June 15, 2015. Rebates will be dispersed on a first-come, first-served basis, and the program will remain active until funds are exhausted.

The following vehicles are eligible to qualify for a rebate:

Battery electric vehicles (BEV) $2,500 Rebate

  • BMW i3 or i3 Rex
  • Chevrolet Spark EV
  • Fiat 500e
  • Ford Focus Electric
  • Honda Fit EV
  • Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive
  • Mitsubishi i-MiEV
  • Nissan LEAF
  • smartED and Electric Fortwo
  • Tesla Model S
  • Toyota RAV4 EV
  • Volkswagen e-Golf

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) $1,500 Rebate

  • BMW i8
  • Cadillac ELR
  • Chevrolet Volt
  • Ford CMAX Energi
  • Ford Fusion Energi
  • Honda Accord Plug-in
  • Porsche 918 Spyder
  • Porsche Cayenne S E-Hybrid
  • Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid
  • Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid

For questions or more information, e-mail Alexa Voytek, Program Manager at TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs, at alexa.voytek@tn.gov or call (615) 532-0238.

NREL Guide Helps to Determine Cost-Effectiveness of CNG Fleets

Even with today’s discounted gasoline prices, natural gas as a fuel is about 20% cheaper than that of gasoline.[1] Although the initial purchase price of vehicles running on natural gas is higher than those fueled by gasoline, the cost savings that a consumer witnesses over the lifespan of a natural gas vehicle (NGV) helps to recover that initial investment cost in a short period of time.

An individual or business may also be keen to invest in a natural gas vehicle because NGVs have substantially lower operating and maintenance costs, as natural gas burns cleanly and there is less engine deterioration than there is with gasoline.[2] Above all, NGVs emit approximately 6%-11% lower levels of harmful greenhouse gas emissions than gasoline.[3]

A new publication by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) breaks down the variables that many fleet managers face when deciding on the economic viability of investing in compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled fleet vehicles.

In particular, NREL developed a Vehicle Infrastructure and Cash-Flow Evaluation (VICE) model to help business owners and fleet managers seeking to evaluate the cost savings they might generate by investing in CNG-fueled vehicles.

As each fleet represents a unique case study, the report breaks down the operating parameters of CNG-powered vehicles, analyzing infrastructure, financial incentives, vehicle maintenance, fuel taxes, fuel pricing, inflation, and vehicle type, so that fleet owners can make more informed decisions about the financial soundness of investing in NGVs.

Tennessee CNG Laws and Incentives

The State of Tennessee has its own specific incentives to make natural gas an attractive option as an alternative fuel. In particular, there is a natural gas station property tax reduction, by which any public utility, commercial, or industrial property certified to fuel natural gas vehicles may not be valued for property tax purposes at more than 30% of its total installed cost.[4] In the state of Tennessee, both Piedmont Natural Gas and UPS have utilized this incentive to build natural gas refueling stations. Furthermore, there are state procurement policies in place that favor the adoption of NGVs within the State’s fleet.

A few CNG-powered vehicles are also included on the federal high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane exemption list, which allows low emission and energy efficient vehicles access to the HOV lane, even if the vehicle has fewer than the required number of occupants. This adds to the overall cost-effectiveness of owning natural gas vehicles, as drivers in this lane experience substantial savings in travel time.

Tennessee NGV Rally

From May 18-22, a CNG-fueled vehicle rally took place in Tennessee, beginning at Memphis Light, Gas & Water. Check out the fully rally details here to see where the vehicles stopped and refueled.

[1] Using average prices in Nashville on 4/23/15 from the following two sites: http://www.cngprices.com/station_map.php and http://www.nashvillegasprices.com/

[4] Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2004(9) defines “certified green energy production facility” as including a facility certified by the department of environment and conservation as an alternative motor vehicle fueling station that utilizes natural gas in compressed or liquid form for the purpose of fueling motor vehicles and that is projected to displace more than six thousand gallons (6,000 gals.) of petroleum annually.  Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-5-601(f), public utility or commercial or industrial property that is used to engage in the fueling of natural gas vehicles and that is certified as an alternative fueling site as described in Tenn. Code Ann. § 67-4-2004(9) is not exempt from taxation but will be initially valued at not more than 30% of its total installed costs.  This valuation also applies to machinery and equipment utilized in a natural gas vehicle fueling station such as storage vessels, compressors, dryers, dispensers, piping, and compressed or liquefied gas appliances.  A copy of the facility certification by the department of environment and conservation is required to qualify for the valuation.  The findings of the General Assembly that this valuation is based on the limited number of vehicles equipped to use natural gas as fuel and that discouraging investment in property used for fueling alternative fuel vehicles would deny Tennessee citizens the environmental benefits and energy security arising from use of natural gas as a transportation fuel are to be considered when the property is reappraised.


U.S. DOE and EPA Recognizes 128 Partners for Exceptional Commitments to Energy Efficiency

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded 128 entities from 33 states with the 2015 ENERGY STAR’s Partner of the Year award for their commitments and efforts in energy efficiency and environmental protection.

The winners, which were chosen from a network of 16,000 ENERGY STAR partners, were deemed to be leaders in their industries both in the production of energy-efficient products and services, and in the adoption of corporate strategies for energy reduction.

In 2014 alone, ENERGY STAR partners prevented 300 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and reduced utility bills in the U.S. by $34 billion.[1] The ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Award helps to draw attention to some of the sustained leaders in energy efficiency, their best practices, and the success stories that can motivate companies and consumers nationwide to adopt energy efficient strategies of their own.

Tennessee’s ENERGY STAR Partners of the Year

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville earned the Sustained Excellence Partner of the Year Award for New Homes Construction. The organization has incorporated energy efficiency into its affordable housing offerings for low-income families by allowing people to purchase Energy Star certified homes with monthly utility bills that average $78 for a 1,200 square-foot home. The organization also partners with Energy Star certified product vendors, so that homeowners can save even more on monthly utility bills.

Tennessee-based Nissan North America, Inc. and Eastman Chemical Company were both awarded the Sustained Excellence Partner of the Year Award for Energy Management. This award is given to entities that adopt a continuous energy management strategy across their entire portfolio of buildings and plants.

Of particular note, Nissan North America improved its U.S. enterprise energy efficiency by 13 percent over 2013 and by 35 percent since 2009. The company promoted energy efficiency awareness by including an energy efficiency flyer in Nissan LEAF glove boxes, and assisted in the ENERGY STAR certification of 5 K-12 schools in Tennessee and the recertification of 19 schools in Mississippi.[2]

Eastman Chemical Company received its recognition in part because of its efficient operation of cogeneration facilities, but also because of its emphasis on the manufacturing of energy efficient chemical distillation systems. Eastman improved its energy consumption since 2008 by roughly eight percent, avoiding $29 million in energy costs in 2014 alone.[3] Furthermore, the company encourages employees to take steps towards more active energy reduction via its successful “Superhero” campaign.

TEEI congratulates Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville, Nissan North America and Eastman Chemical on being named ENERGY STAR Partners of the Year.

The full list of 2015 ENERGY STAR Partners of the Year can be found here: http://www.energystar.gov/about/awards/2015_energy_star_award_winners.


National Parks Further Commitment to Sustainable Transportation

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities National Parks Initiative is a strategic partnership between the National Parks Service and the Department of Energy to fund the adoption of alternative fuel vehicles, minimize petroleum use, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation in and around America’s national parks.

Introduced in 2010, the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative is focused on sustainable transportation projects in over 27 parks, such as Acadia National Park, where visitors and staff can travel among park destinations and neighboring communities on buses powered by alternative fuels, or Grand Canyon National Park, which has set a goal to reduce its transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020.

In March of 2015, the partnership revealed that it would begin work with five new parks:[1]

  • Christiansted National Historic Site (Virgin Islands)
  • Petrified Forest National Park (Arizona)
  • Point Reyes National Seashore (California)
  • Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield (Missouri)
  • Independence National Historical Park (Pennsylvania)

Alternative Fuel in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

In Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Clean Cities National Parks Initiative will replace older gasoline trucks with new propane-powered vehicles, adding four propane pickup trucks and installing two propane refueling stations. The park is also replacing three pickup trucks with all-electric vehicles, converting five gasoline mowers to operate on propane, and installing four publicly accessible electric vehicle charging stations. These replacements and installations are expected to reduce the park’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by almost 40 million tons of CO2 and to save nearly 8,900 gasoline-gallon equivalents of petroleum per year.[2]


Green Gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains

For tourists who want to travel to Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park with little to no emissions, the Black Bear Solar Institute has established a “Green Gateway” of electric vehicle charging stations, bridging the distance from Interstate Highways and major urban areas of Tennessee to the National Park gateway community of Townsend, Tennessee. The Green Gateway helps to ensure better air quality and decreased tailpipe emissions surrounding the most frequented National Park in the U.S.[3]

New website streamlines information on energy efficiency, renewable energy programs

Wind Turbines

Image courtesy of Jürgen

State and local governments, businesses, and families could be saving trillions of dollars[1] through energy efficiency efforts such as improved HVAC, lighting, or vehicle fuel efficiency. Fortunately, many policies and incentives exist in every state to fund energy efficiency projects in an easily searchable online database.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE), a Department of Energy (DOE)-funded web portal that is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center, is the most comprehensive, searchable catalogue on funding opportunities that support both energy efficiency and renewable energy.[2]

Originally established in 1995, this resource has recently been updated so that users can now filter and search using multiple criteria. The database contains information on more than 2,800 active policies and programs across all 50 states that relate to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Opportunities within Tennessee

DSIRE features over 50 programs, funding opportunities and incentives that apply directly to the State of Tennessee. Below are some of those highlighted within the catalogue:

  • Tennessee’s Qualified Energy Conservation Bond program, through which local governments can apply for low-interest bonds to finance qualified energy savings projects.
  • TVA’s eScore program, which provides homeowners financial incentives to increase the energy efficiency of existing homes.
  • Pathway Lending’s Energy Efficiency Loan Program, which provides Tennessee business and non-profit entities with below-market loans for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements.
  • TVA’s Green Power Providers program, which offers a performance-based incentive program to homeowners and businesses for the installation of renewable generation systems from the following qualifying resources: PV, wind, hydropower, and biomass.

Low-interest bonds finance “world’s largest”[1] waste-to-energy gasification plant in Tennessee

PHG Energy and the City of Lebanon, Tennessee have partnered up to engineer and construct a sustainable waste-to-energy gasification plant and electricity-generating solar panel array adjacent to the City’s wastewater treatment plant. Through the Qualified Energy Conservation Bond (QECB) Program, which is managed by TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs, the City of Lebanon is utilizing $3.5 million in federal bonds to finance the energy projects.

PHG President Tom Stanzione said that the project will result in what his company believes will be the world’s largest downdraft gasifier. [2] By way of a thermo-chemical process, the downdraft gasification plant is expected to convert 64 tons per day of waste into a fuel that will produce up to 300Kw of electricity. This gasifier will power both the plant’s internal energy requirements, and will contribute additional electricity to the larger host wastewater treatment plant.[3]

In addition to the energy saved, this project is expected to cut back on new landfill waste by 8,000 tons annually—an amount roughly comparable to a line of trucks over 4 miles long![4] In line with preventing further waste, the plant will also be credited with reducing carbon dioxide emissions by about 2,500 tons annually.[5]

Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead said that the city is viewing the green power gasification plant as the first step of a larger plan to eventually convert the city’s household and commercial garbage to energy in the future.[6]

Third sub-allocation for energy conversation projects released

The type of financing made available for the above-mentioned project has been re-activated, as TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs announced a third Request for Proposals (RFP) for Tennessee’s Qualified Energy Conservation Bond (QECB) Program on March 18, 2015. Through the RFP, local governments can once again apply for low-interest bonds to help finance energy savings projects. The Office of Energy Programs, in conjunction with the Tennessee Local Development Authority, will make the remaining funds available for qualifying projects until bond capacity is exhausted. Tennessee’s total remaining allocation for the program is expected to fluctuate due to pending issuances under the previously approved sub-allocations and any additional re-allocations from large local jurisdictions.

QECBs were created by Congress in 2008 and expanded in 2009 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Of the State’s total $64.67 million allocation, approximately $40 million has been, or is currently scheduled to be issued for qualifying projects by jurisdictions automatically eligible under the federal legislation or through previous competitive sub-allocation processes.

For more information on the QECB program, please contact Luke Gebhard in TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs at (615) 532-8798 or luke.gebhard@tn.gov.

Presidential Challenge for Outdoor Lighting Triples Its Initial Goal

This year, outdoor lighting in the U.S. will require as much energy consumption as roughly 6 million homes, costing U.S. cities about $10 billion.[1] What can municipal governments do to cut down on this energy consumption without compromising the nighttime visibility of their streets?

The Department of Energy’s Better Buildings High Performance Outdoor Lighting Accelerator (HPOLA) is designed to focus on the adoption and use of high efficiency outdoor lighting in the public sector, while developing best practice approaches to municipal system-wide replacement in the longer term.

In May of 2014, the Obama administration, in conjunction with the Department of Energy (DOE), set an initial goal for the Accelerator to work with local and municipal governments in retrofitting 500,000 light poles.

Ramping up its commitment, the Obama administration announced on January 23, 2015 that it would triple its goal to 1.5 million light poles by May of 2016.[2] This initiative is expected to help participating cities and states reduce the cost of their outdoor lighting bills by 50% or more.[3]

How will it work? Highway

Through HPOLA, cities will work hand-in-hand with DOE to secure financing, upgrade outdoor lighting systems, collect data on their performance, and perform analysis on the savings.

As a result of their efforts, these communities will save money while realizing substantial carbon reductions.

Tennessee’s involvement

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s Office of Energy Programs (OEP) has recently signed on with HPOLA to collaborate with three or more municipalities in developing an outdoor lighting roadmap, which will incorporate a system-wide analysis and replace a significant portion of each municipality’s outdoor lighting portfolio within two years.

This work ties in with OEP’s ongoing efforts, under a separate DOE grant, to provide technical assistance to local jurisdictions, K-12 schools, and public housing authorities, and to support implementation of energy investments in these sectors, including outdoor street lighting improvements.

For more information, contact Luke Gebhard at luke.gebhard@tn.gov or 615-741-2994.


Crowdsourcing energy efficiency for next-generation buildings

Buildings in the U.S. account for 39% of the country’s total carbon emissions, 73% of the nation’s electricity consumption and 55% of its natural gas consumption[1].

Moreover, we spend more than $400 billion each year to power our homes and commercial buildings, and 20% or more of this energy and money is wasted[2]. If we reduce the energy consumption of U.S. buildings by 20%, we could save roughly $80 billion annually on energy bills.

Because of this, the systematic reduction of energy consumption in buildings can play a pivotal role in diminishing carbon emissions, saving money, supporting job growth, reducing pollution, improving competitiveness, and paving the way for a more sustainable future.


LED Lightbulbs

An assortment of energy-efficient semiconductor (LED) lamps for commercial and residential lighting use.

Dynamic problem solving

Responding to this issue, the Department of Energy’s Tennessee-based Oak Ridge National Laboratory has released a new crowdsourcing website, the ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community. This site serves as a one-of-a-kind platform for the collection and evaluation of ideas centered on energy efficient next-generation building technologies.

Participants can also show support for certain proposals, or leave comments, resulting in a highly interactive forum for next-generation building technologies and concepts.

The ORNL Buildings Crowdsourcing Community has begun to accept idea proposals and comments. Users have until May 31st to submit their ideas or to provide feedback. The best technical ideas will be recognized at ORNL’s Building Technologies Office Industry Day in September.


About Oak Ridge National Laboratory

As the largest DOE science and energy research center, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory supports DOE’s mission to deliver technological solutions for energy-efficient buildings, transportation and manufacturing.

Learn more about ORNL’s key activities and research areas here.

Clean Cities Releases 2015 Alternative Fuel Vehicles Buyer’s Guide

Electric Car Charging Marker

Electric car charging pavement marking, courtesy of Paul Krueger

Comparing alternative fuel vehicles can be a daunting task. With hundreds of options, consisting of propane, natural gas, biodiesel, electric, hybrid, and ethanol flex-fuel alternatives, it can be difficult to know which variant will best serve your needs, offering the best reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for the price you’re willing to pay.

The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities 2015 Vehicle Buyer’s Guide is now available, free of charge, to help individual consumers and fleet owners make better informed purchasing decisions. This nonbiased survey provides an accurate summary of the model year 2015 light-duty alternative fuel vehicles available for purchase.

With a breakdown of the following components, this resource serves as a handy tool for fair comparisons:

  • Fuel economy
  • Energy impact score (barrels petroleum/year)
  • Emissions
  • All-electric range (miles)
  • Engine and/or battery size
  • Manufacturer suggested retail price

The buyer’s guide also details certified companies that can help convert gasoline powered vehicles into alternative fuel vehicles for consumers who do not want to purchase a new vehicle. For more information on EPA-certified conversion systems and on alternative fuel conversion more generally, click here.

For consumers who want to narrow in specifically on the electric vehicle market, the Department of Energy has also just released the Plug-in Electric Vehicle Handbook for Consumers, which details everything you need to know about buying the right vehicle, driving and maintaining an electric vehicle, charging the vehicle, and the overall benefits to going electric.

Filling up and charging in Tennessee[1]

  • There are 501 alternative fuel stations in Tennessee! To find out where you can fill up or charge your alternative fuel vehicle, check out this interactive map.
  • In 2014, three new compressed natural gas (CNG) stations opened in Nashville, bringing the total to four. In Tennessee, there are a total of 11 CNG filling stations.
  • The availability of ethanol flex-fuel and biodiesel fuel continues to expand state-wide. As of mid-January, 55 stations in the state offer E85 and 22 stations offer B20 or higher biodiesel blends. Of particular note, Speedway started opening new convenience stores in East Tennessee along I-75, with a majority of the stores offering E85. This expansion of ethanol flex-fuel coincides with the I-75 Green Corridor Project.
  • With the support of the EPA-funded Crossroads Truck Stop Electrification (TSE) Project, ETCleanFuels is working to add new TSE charging sites to the state of Tennessee. Overall, the grant will introduce TSE to six stations in the Southeast, with the goal of increasing TSE usage in the region by 10%.

[1] Data in this section provided by the Tennessee Clean Fuels Advisor, 2015 Edition I, Vol. 25.

TDEC Announces Sustainable Transportation Awards and Forum

Initiative Will Recognize Leaders in Reducing Transportation-related Energy and Emissions

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau announced today the launch of the TDEC Sustainable Transportation Awards initiative to recognize outstanding and voluntary achievements by governments, businesses, industries, public and private institutions of higher learning, and utilities that demonstrate leadership in advancing sustainable transportation in the State.

“According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, transportation accounts for nearly 30 percent of Tennessee’s end-use energy consumption,” Martineau said. “By recognizing thought leaders in this field, we hope to inspire replication of innovative projects, activities, and initiatives across the state in an effort to save natural resources, improve the health and well-being of Tennesseans, and create efficiencies in the delivery of goods and services.”

The TDEC Sustainable Transportation Awards cover eight broad categories: on-site transportation; off-site transportation; incorporation of sustainable transportation in the supply chain; employee incentive or engagement programs; public transportation; technological or operational innovations; and infrastructure development.

Entities eligible to apply for the TDEC Sustainable Transportation Awards include: federal, state and local governments; commercial and industrial organizations; public and private institutions of higher education; and utilities. Self-nominations are encouraged. A panel of judges representing diverse interests will select award recipients based on criteria including on-the-ground achievement, innovation, transferability, and public education and outreach.

In connection with Clean Air Month, TDEC will host a recognition ceremony and sustainable transportation forum on May 7, 2015 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Applications are available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/SustainableTransportationAwards and are due to TDEC no later than March 20, 2015. Interested applicants are encouraged to contact Luke Gebhard in TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs at 615-741-2994 or luke.gebhard@tn.gov.