Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Michigan

Michigan is quickly looking to make its position as one of the frontrunners for cleantech. Through numerous initiatives, investments, tax incentives, various research and development firms, and the creation of clean technologies, it is obvious that cleantech has had an impact on the way Michigan looks at renewable energy. Michigan is quickly becoming a frontrunner in the cleantech industry in part by leveraging its preeminent position in global manufacturing to revitalize innovation for clean energy manufacturing. The new green economy provides Michigan a dynamic opportunity to rebuild the state’s job base, attract new investment, and diversify the state’s economy.

1) Incentives and Policies for Renewable Energy and Efficiency. To promote the use of renewable energy as well as energy efficiency, the state of Michigan set up a number of different financial incentives at the state and city level that would make the switch to renewable energy a lot more beneficial for homes, businesses and institutions. Michigan provides industry recruitment and support, PACE financing, performance based incentives, personal tax credits, property tax incentives, state grant programs, and three year utility rebate programs.

2) Michigan GREEN. Michigan GREEN (Group for a Renewable Energy Efficient Nation) is comprised of energy companies, energy consultants, various government agencies, universities, and schools that are looking to advance not only the installation but as well the implementation of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies, raise awareness on these technologies and about energy conservation in all settings, including residential, industrial, and commercial, and provide access to funding opportunities for projects related to these technologies. This nonprofit was created to increase knowledge and awareness of new energy technologies and possibilities to save money over the long run..

3) Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center. Also known as MAREC, Michigan Alternative and Renewable Energy Center is part of Grand Valley State University. MAREC’s mission is to become a business accelerator, development catalyst, and center for research and development to connect government, business, and education resources for the development, commercialization, and advancement of new technologies that put emphasis on renewable and alternative energy. Some of the objectives to add to the overall impact include bringing together parties that allow for the development and promotion of alternative energy technologies, enable research and development on these technologies, and allow for educational tactics to prepare an understanding of alternative and renewable energies.

4) Michigan Renewables Energy Program. Created by Michigan state legislature, the Michigan Renewables Energy Program was implemented by the Public Service Commission of Michigan for the further promotion of renewable energy. Currently, this program oversees five different technology committees to increase the usage of renewable energies – biomass, wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric.

5) Overseas Collaboration. Michigan has been working along China to boost the creation of clean technologies. Numerous delegations travel between these two locations to explore options including investment opportunities, technology transfers, and manufacturing opportunities. Michigan believes that through Chinese investment and manufacturing, Michigan can place itself at the center of the United States cleantech revolution. It is a two way street because China sees the opportunity for entrepreneurship and business development in Michigan. Between the two locations, partnerships through clean energy technologies research and development are formed.

Here I think we should include the University of Michigan’s U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC), which will advance technologies for clean energy vehicles. Valued at $25 M. (with a $12 M grant from the Department of Energy), the University of Michigan will lead that consortium that includes Ohio State University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sandia National Laboratories, Joint BioEnergy Institute, Oak Ridge National Laboratories, General Motors, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler, Cummins, Fraunhofer, MAGNET, A123, American Electric Power, First Energy and the Transportation Research Center.

6) Energy Works Michigan. The future is very important when it comes to cleantech, and Energy Works Michigan works to educate individuals and businesses on how to create equitable, sustainable, and prosperous energy. Energy Works Michigan Energy Efficiency Program, for example, works with public and private K-12 schools to provide them with an energy assessment that is detailed and how to improve savings in the future. The Renewable Energy Program assists with schools looking to implement educational solar as well as wind systems.

7) Businesses Begin to Go Green. Because of the increase in clean technologies and the need to save money due to the current recession, many businesses are looking into energy efficient, renewable energy sources. No better example can be thought of other than Ford. In 2009, Ford made an announcement to invest more than $500 million in converting a plant into a factory that specializes in fuel-efficient cars and would also create the first electric vehicle – the Ford Focus Electric Car and Plug-in Hybrid. Ford is one of the first companies to offer individuals a selection of vehicles with fuel efficient drive systems. Not only is it affordable to maintain, but it will also lower the overall CO2 levels. By capitalizing on the impact of cleantech, Ford is beginning to turn its company green.

8 ) Tapping into Unused Energy Sources and creating more Jobs. Michigan has a wide number of sources it can use for renewable energy. Michigan is currently trying to lose the title of the twelfth largest global warming polluter in the United States. By increasing renewable energy sources, not only will inexpensive, reliable, and clean energy be provided, but it will also create a number of new jobs. For example, by 2030, just the wind industry alone would create more than 30,000 new jobs. Whereas Michigan is utilizing wind energy and plans to increase its use by expanding existing wind energy facilities, there are a number of untapped renewable energy sources. Waste is one untapped form of renewable energy. It has been advised that biomass power plants be erected by farms and disposal sites. Per megawatt of biomass energy, 10.5 jobs would be created. Diving into solar power, which is largely untapped, will create 500 more jobs if one plant goes from 180 to 300 megawatts.

9) Renewable Energy Legislations. Numerous bills have been passed through Michigan legislation to promote energy conservation and renewable energy. The “Clean, Renewable, and Efficiency Energy Act,” created an Integrated Renewable Portfolio Standard (PRS) of ten percent by the year 2015. These standards must be adhered to by energy providers via renewable energy generation, energy optimization schemes, and renewable energy credits. Potential areas of renewable energy, including solar, geothermal, wind, hydroelectric, and biomass are recognized. The Energy Efficiency Resource Standard demands energy savings for electricity providers.

10) Reaching Energy Goals. In early 2011, the Michigan Public Service Commission states that through its cleantech initiatives, Michigan is close to reaching its portfolio standard of 10 percent by the year 2015. This means that close to ten percent of all generated electricity is coming from renewable sources. The chairman, Orjiakor Isiogu stated, “The state’s utilities are taking steps to build wind farms, promote solar energy and net metering, and purchase renewable energy credits.”

Article by Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which is focused on fund-raising for private equity cleantech/sustainable funds, as well as private cleantech companies and M&A. He is also a co- founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association, and can be reached at

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