Michigan Can Lead the World in Clean Energy Technology

Guest Blog by: Director Skipp Pruss, Department of Energy, Labor, and Economic Growth

This spring, Trillium Power, an offshore wind developer, announced $83 billion in offshore wind energy projects in Lakes Ontario and Erie that could add more than $250 billion to Ontario’s economy.  Western European countries plan to deploy 40 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in the next ten years with more than 150 gigawatts by 2030.  Meanwhile China, starting from near zero, has become the world leader in the production of both wind and solar energy components in less than a decade.

Around the world, capital is pouring into clean energy technologies as countries move strategically to take advantage of the estimated $45 trillion that the International Energy Agency calculates will be invested in wind, solar and other clean technologies. This expenditure, over the next 40 years, means that investment trends will not only be sustained, but will grow substantially over future decades.

The new global energy economy is a huge opportunity to diversify economies, secure new investment and create jobs – an opportunity that aligns perfectly with Michigan’s rich array of assets and strengths.  Accelerating Michigan’s recovery from the crippling blows of severe national recession and the historic constriction of our auto related manufacturing industries requires a radical refocusing of our capacity for innovation, creativity and collaboration.

This is why the Next Governor must remain focused on diversifying Michigan’s economy by transitioning Michigan’s incumbent manufacturing companies to new opportunities and attracting new clean technology companies.  Strategic alliances must be built, cross-cutting collaborations among businesses, academia and government must be nourished and sustained, and key assets and strengths that advantage Michigan must be identified, aggregated and optimized.

The Great Lakes Region is unsurpassed in manufacturing capacity and the Great Lakes are a world class energy resource.  Offshore wind alone will provide new opportunities to revitalize the region as turbine component manufacturing ramps up with demand for components like towers, blades, gear boxes, and cabling, as well as the vessels and port activities necessary to construct, operate and service the new wind farms.

Michigan is poised to assume world leadership in the development of next-generation wind turbine manufacturing by optimizing our strengths in engineering, advanced manufacturing and materials science.  Because of new ground-breaking collaborations between Michigan companies, soon wind turbine components will be manufactured in Michigan better, cheaper, faster and with more precision than anywhere else in the world.

In 2010, we will see $5.2 billion of new investment in advanced energy storage systems as 17 new companies break ground in Michigan.  Companies like Johnson Controls, A123, fortu, Toda America, LG Chem and Sakti 3 will manufacture not only the next generation batteries to power electric drivetrains, but also develop the technology to store wind and solar energy so that these clean energy sources can provide continuous power.

Michigan’s solar sector will see as much as $3.7 billion in new investment as new entrants Suniva, Globalwatt and Clairvoyant break ground for their new solar panel manufacturing facilities and Hemlock Semiconductor completes its latest $1 billion expansion.

Dow Chairman Andrew Liveris recently announced that Dow’s new Powerhouse solar shingle will be manufactured in Michigan.  This aesthetically pleasing solar roofing system hails the arrival of a new “energy systems integration” approach to building construction that will help home owners and businesses become energy self-sufficient.

As great as these new investments are, we can do even better.  What is needed is strategic, focused redeployment of Michigan’s human capital and institutional strengths, coupled with catalytic private sector leadership from our emerging clean energy technology companies.  A great example is the world class Erb Institute at the University of Michigan, a partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business that cross-pollinates disciplines involving global sustainability and cutting edge business innovation.  The Erb Institute unleashes and applies the powerful creative faculties of the nation’s best and brightest students who apprehend and enthusiastically embrace the challenges and opportunities latent in the emerging clean energy economy.

In addition to our outstanding research universities, Michigan has 28 community colleges that are nimbly designing and weaving new “green” curricula and technical training capacities to serve Michigan’s new clean energy companies and other evolving regional green market opportunities.

As the world competes for market share in developing clean energy technology, “business as usual” isn’t good enough.  We need to bring all our strengths to bear.  Strategic, systemic collaborations and innovation can drive Michigan’s economic transformation.

Our successes thus far validate the catalytic effect of well-coordinated action.  Michigan needs to be “all in.”


Economic Development

a. How do you envision the role of the state government in economic development; the role of state government in stimulating the economy?

Michigan’s licensing and regulatory procedures

b. Should state licensing and regulatory procedures be more user friendly?

Michigan requirements for state contracts

c. Should the state institute mandatory “buy Michigan” requirements for state contracts?

MEDC changed?

d. Would you change the MEDC? (Every governor since Romney has reorganized economic development agencies.)

Single Economic Development Code in Michigan?

e. Should Michigan have a single Economic Development Code instead of the present 50+ economic development statutes?

Impact on taxes in Michigan

f. What is the impact of business and personal taxes on economic growth?