New trade group predicts boom in new energy

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Capital News Service
LANSING — Global, national and state-level demand for advanced energy storage and more biomass, solar and wind power will grow significantly by 2015, according to the Energy Innovation Business Council.
A council study points out the “new energy” sector has a potential annual average impact of $4.9 billion in Michigan, including 20,791 jobs supported and $163.7 million in local and state tax revenues.
The council is a new trade group focused on expanding Michigan’s advanced energy industry.
“It is the state’s first trade association for advanced energy manufacturing and energy efficiency businesses,” said President Ed Clemente.
The council’s economic impact report predicts a potential global market for some renewable energy products, including electric vehicles. It forecasts that Michigan will manufacture an average of 278,000 electric vehicles a year through 2015.
Clemente said, “Michigan companies are already global leaders in advanced energy technology and exporting their products around the world, including to major markets for renewable energy such as China.”
Ann Marie Sastry, president of Sakti3, an Ann Arbor-based high-tech, advanced battery manufacturing company, said, “Battery markets are global and are principally in consumer electronics. There is a widespread anticipation of auto markets for batteries for electric vehicles, but only if costs and energy densities can be improved.”
The main market drive for lithium-ion battery manufacturing is the electric vehicle, Sastry said.
But price is always a sticking point.
A report by J.D. Power and Associates said that about half of U.S. car buyers are unwilling to spend more than $5,000 for a green vehicle above the price of a gas-powered car, despite their concern about the environment.
Sastry said she is positive about the future of battery-related products.
“Improved energy storage is not only an enabler for personal communication and transportation, but also a strategic matter. As countries around the world move from fossil fuel dependence to greater use of renewable, energy storage will be an increasing need, ” she said.
The council’s members include Roger Cope, Astraeus Wind Energy, Inc. in Eaton Rapids; Mike Kunselman, Hemlock Semiconductor Group in Hemlock; Seth Roberts, Dow Chemical Company in Midland; and Paula Wheeler, LED Optical Solutions in Washington.
The council report forecast an annual demand for more than 650,000 lithium-ion batteries annually by 2015.
Clemente said Michigan has advantages like manufacturing infrastructure, top research universities and a skilled workforce, but the competition will be fierce.
“The main competitors would be the Great Lakes states of Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Pennsylvania, as well as major renewable energy markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China,” he said.
Although the council has no specific plan to seek government subsidies or tax breaks now, Clemente said it wants policymakers to look at all energy options and policies that can diversify Michigan’s energy economy, promote innovation and entrepreneurship and create jobs.
The Michigan Manufacturers Association said there may be some duplication of efforts with older industry groups.
Chuck Hadden, president of the association, said Michigan is one of a handful of states with cutting edge companies producing renewable energy products, and it may be a growth sector in the future.
Hadden said he is not sure the new council is needed. “I really don’t know what they will be doing. It may duplicate some of our effort, but it may also give a different prospective.”
He continued, “Sustainability and renewable energy are new industries with a lot of growth in front of them. It is still hard to say how far they will go.
“Currently many of the industries in this group are being supported with government subsidies. But so are many other industries, ” he said.
© 2012, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Nonmembers cannot reproduce CNS articles without written permission.

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