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Govs Detail New Policies to Broaden Energy-Focused Economic Development

October 10, 2012

New energy plans unveiled by governors in Connecticut and Mississippi promise to capitalize on current strengths, build capacity for future projects, and encourage public-private partnerships to scale up clean energy projects and create jobs by attracting more R&D investment to the states. Connecticut's draft strategy proposes economic incentives to drive down costs of new technology and maximize the use of clean energy finance banks — an approach that is heralded as a model for other states in a recent policy report. At the same time, a new roadmap for energy opportunities in Mississippi focuses on using available resources to attract businesses while expanding research and training more high-tech workers.

A draft comprehensive energy strategy unveiled by Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy emphasizes a flexible finance model to leverage private capital and encourage entrepreneurship to deploy renewable energy on a large scale but with less government funding. Connecticut's model, called the Clean Energy Finance Investment Authority, was established last year as the nation's first state-based clean energy finance bank. Also called the Connecticut Green Bank, the quasi-public corporation combines existing state clean energy and energy efficiency funds to permit private investment in the bank and enable the new entity to make loans and leverage its capital with private capital.

A recent Brookings Institution report pointed to Connecticut's approach and its timely benefit of low-cost financing as a model for other states to adopt. The banks can take on different forms based on a state's unique circumstances, but essentially the model is a quasi-governmental organization that brings together public and private sector capital to finance energy efficiency, small-scale renewable energy and clean energy projects, according to the report. Australia, Germany and the UK all have designated green banks.

The Connecticut plan also seeks to advance its energy agenda through economic incentives, such as reverse auctions, declining subsidies and Power Purchase agreements to bring down the cost of renewable electricity and to promote a portfolio of alternative energy projects that can compete with existing fossil fuels. Plans also include launching an Advanced Energy Innovation Hub at the University of Connecticut in the new technology park to support basic research on fuel cells, batteries and storage, microgrid engineering, and small-scale hydropower.

The draft strategy includes a section on the needs of the manufacturing sector with plans to launch a Clean Energy Business Solutions program in support of job creation and retention where energy costs are a critical factor. A final report is expected early next year.

Increasing energy-focused R&D and meeting the workforce needs of the energy industry are two of the six key focus areas in a new roadmap for energy development in Mississippi unveiled by Gov. Phil Bryant during an energy summit.

With a robust energy supply and diverse energy sources, the state is well positioned to create jobs and capture economic development opportunities, the report states. In order to do so, the plan calls for a public-private collaborative entity focused on energy technology commercialization, enhancing the state's R&D tax credit, and rewarding public-private funding agreements for energy R&D at universities.

During the energy summit, the governor gave two examples for encouraging R&D in the energy industry, reports the Associated Press. One of the measures would allow university researchers to keep more profit from patented inventions, and in another scenario the Mississippi Development Authority and the private Mississippi Energy Institute could combine money to fund energy research and lure top researchers to the state.

Strategies to prepare a skilled workforce include increasing industry engagement with universities and community colleges via industry co-ops and internships and online course offerings for continuing education and non-credit courses.

The governor prioritized energy as an avenue for economic development during his State of the State address (see the Jan. 25, 2012 issue of the Digest), and lawmakers overwhelming passed The Energy Sustainability Act of 2012 earlier this year. The act establishes a statewide energy plan and provides incentive opportunities for companies to make capital and workforce investments with money saved by making energy efficiency upgrades.

Energy Works: Mississippi's Energy Roadmap is available at: http://www.governorbryant.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Energy-Works-Roadmap-Final.pdf.

Connecticut, Mississippicleantech, r&d, state tbed, strategic plan, workforce