Energy Agency Issues Clean Energy Manufacturing Roadmap

LANSING — The Michigan Agency for Energy Tuesday issued a Clean Energy Manufacturing Roadmap, a collaborative effort of the state of Michigan and officials in northeast Ohio to boost jobs in the “energy efficient building technology” industry.

“For Michigan, this roadmap demonstrates the opportunities that lie in strengthening clean energy manufacturing to diversify and strengthen the economy,” said MAE Executive Director Valerie Brader.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, MAE led this project in partnership with the Ohio Development Services Agency’s Office of Energy and Redevelopment to provide management and public sector involvement. NextEnergy, the state’s advanced energy industry accelerator, and Team NEO, a regional private-sector organization serving the 18 counties of Northeast Ohio, conducted the technical analysis and provided private sector involvement and perspective.

The executive summary and entire report are available on MAE’s website. In the study, NextEnergy identified 2,802 Michigan companies and other “stakeholders” involved in energy efficiency in residential, commercial or industrial structures, renewable energy, or energy-related software, sensors or controls.

The study found “significant, robust research and development activity, strong engineering and manufacturing talent, a strong network of entrepreneurs and innovation, as well as challenges,” such as customers unfamiliar with energy efficiency technologies. The study recommended outreach efforts to users of energy efficiency technologies, including  uncreasing training in connected systems or building automation.

The study found a “robust and growing supply chain” in LED lighting in the region, with a need to improve efficiency through automated manufacturing. There’s also a growing business in lighting controls systems. In building and HVAC automation, the study found “growing sectors that are still relatively niche markets.” The study recommended “developing a demonstration of the technology and providing regular support from the state or an industry consortium (to) help to foster growth. The cluster would also benefit from greater software development, as well as contractor training about the systems to help encourage adoption at the customer level.”

The study also found a need to develop an industry cluster in combined heat and power, fostering control system partnerships, cultivating buy-sell relationships and pushing existing “Buy Michigan” programs.

The study recommended state assistance in encouraging university researchers to pursue grant funding, providing advisors to assist energy efficiency businesses in seeking federal research funding, creating technology challenges for fledgling energy businesses, conducting matchmaking events between energy companies and software developers, and offering training sessions on the technologies to contractors.

The study also recommended using the Michigan Economic Development Corp.’s Pure Michigan Business Connect program to encourage more partnerships in the energy efficiency value chain, both for technology developers and for service providers such as architects, specifiers, and contractors.

And, the study recommended securing funding to conduct an economic impact study and industry forecast for the advanced energy industry in Michigan.

Finally, the study also advised streamlining and standardizing the many state, local and utility energy efficiency assistance program into a statewide program to create ease of use, consistent incentives, and to eliminate confusion among programs.

The study also recommended more research and development funding assistance to clean energy companies, particularly in the area of manufacturing efficiency.