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Conference highlights Ohio’s strengths as energy industry leader

The Hannah Report

Nicole D’Alonzo Apr 9, 2009

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Conference highlights Ohio’s strengths as energy industry leader

The Hannah Report

Nicole D’Alonzo April 9, 2009

Columbus, Ohio (Apr. 9, 2009) - The University Clean Energy Alliance of Ohio (UCEAO), a coalition of statewide universities as well as government and industrial partners, joined together on Thursday to highlight its single collective message concerning the critical importance of clean and secure energy for Ohio and the nation at its third annual conference.

Kathleen McGinty, former chair of the White House Council on Environment Quality, kicked-off the conference on Wednesday evening. Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher opened the day-long conference as keynote speaker on Thursday.

Fisher prefaced his speech about Ohio’s investment in new “green” technology by stating that he would never want the positive commitment the state has taken via Gov. Ted Strickland’s stimulus package dollars for alternative energy to overshadow the hardships Ohioans are facing everyday due to the “economic perfect storm.”

“We need to be able to see the forest and the trees at the same time,” Fisher said. “The trees are frightening, though the forest is full of hope.”

Fisher and Strickland have been of the belief that Ohio should live within its means, but invest in what matters, he said. “We cut $1.9 billion from an already lean budget. If that was all we did – we would not succeed.”

According to the Berkeley Laboratories, Fisher said, Ohio has the third most aggressive portfolio standard in the country. “While we were late to the party, we are leap-frogging over states that have had portfolio standards in place for years.”

Some of the assets Fisher pointed out that will make Ohio an energy industry leader include:
- Ohio is ranked fourth in rail.
- Ohio is ranked sixth in highways.
- Ohio has 6 million uniquely skilled workers (larger than the total population of 35 state).
- Ohio is the third largest in manufacturing.
- Ohio has Lake Erie.
- Ohio’s geographical location makes it a hub for distribution and logistics.

“We are a state of innovation,” Fisher said. He recognized the previous Taft administration for being a pioneer regarding the Third Frontier, which funds research and development for new alternative energy industry technologies.

“We used to measure our economy by the height of our smoke stacks and the strength of our backs. We now measure our economy by the depths of our innovation,” Fisher said.

The UCEAO, directed by Jane Harf, is a partnership of 15 Ohio universities, formed in 2007, which advocates for research, education and commercialization of new technologies to support secure and sustainable future for Ohio and the nation. In past years, the conferences highlighted opportunities for cross sector collaboration in Ohio related to energy supply chain industries and Ohio’s renewable energy sectors and their growth potential for economic development and jobs in the state.

A breakout session after Fisher’s keynote speech focused on how Ohio’s universities and
businesses can use state and federal stimulus money while traditional sources of funding are being reduced. That panel discussion included the governor’s energy advisor and executive director of the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority, Mark Shanahan; Mike McKay, manager for the Ohio Department of Development’s Technology and Innovation Division; Richard Stuebi, fellow for energy and environment advancement at the Cleveland Foundation; and Paul Bishop, program director for the Environmental Implications of Emerging Technologies at the National Science Foundation (NSF), which provides funds for research and technology.

Shanahan said the challenge currently for the state is how successfully state and federal
stimulus dollars can be leveraged in advanced energy to create economic development and job creation through collaborations and partnerships between Ohio’s research institutions of higher education and business (private money).

“We need to develop a methodology that meets the needs for industry today and meets the needs for growth,” Shanahan said.

Bishop said his agency has an overall budget of $6 billion annually, with almost all of those funds going to universities across the country for science and technology innovations.

Currently, NSF spends $334 million (2007) just on sustainable energy research and education, with funds for energy continually increasing.

Part of the challenge in telling “Ohio’s story” to steer venture capital from other states who are producing green technologies, such as California, and bring that capital to Ohio, is proving the viability of the state’s assets in research and development, along with workforce and manufacturing capabilities, said Bishop.

Stuebi agreed, however, he said the trend is currently slight but he believes Ohio will be able to sway outside investors to the state as technologies become available for commercialization and can show their worth in the marketplace. Steady, sustainable growth will prove the state a leader in the energy industry supply chain and has already proven itself to some extent through locally manufacturing parts for wind turbines, creating advanced fuel cell technology and solar panels.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on April 9, 2009. Copyright 2009 Hannah News Service, Inc. www.Hannah.com