Friday, January 13, 2012

Becoming Part of the Advanced Energy Economy: A Q&A with CCIA’s Executive Director Chris Shapard

Recently, Colorado Cleantech Industry Association announced it was becoming a charter member of the Advanced Energy Economy. Described as “a chamber of commerce for clean energy businesses,” CCIA Executive Director Chris Shapard talks about what the AEE is all about:

Q: What is the Advanced Energy Economy?

A: AEE is focused on the creation and support of regional economic organization focused on advanced energy growth and innovation. The founding members believe that national energy strategy will be defined out of regional development – a bottoms up approach rather than a top-down push. The AEE is enabling a platform for states and regions to share best practices and build technology partnerships, much like we do in Colorado now, but on a national scale. It is our goal, through CCIA’s involvement with AEE, to elevate our regional cleantech successes to help create a national dialogue focused on economics, competitiveness and national security.

Q: Why do we need the AEE?

A: All energy discussions to this point either focus in favor of jobs or the environment. AEE transcends that discussion by focusing on the business and economic impact of all forms of clean technology. With global energy consumption projected to rise more than 50 percent by 2035, future prosperity depends on new ways to meet the world’s energy needs. Advanced energy includes any solution that moves us toward the goal of energy that is affordable, abundant, and secure. Rather than favoring specific technologies, advanced energy is inclusive in nature and to be judged by the benefits it provides in the field and in the marketplace.

The AEE will help us take industry best practices that we know work on a state and regional level to guide national policy creation. It’s a really timely effort for Colorado considering Governor Hickenlooper’s bottom’s up approach to economic development. In addition, AEE provides financial assistance to chapters along with communications, policy, research and data support. These additional resources will allow CCIA to expand its capacity in 2012, and helps to increase our efforts around commercialization support for the universities and roll out an executive education institute.

Q: How is the AEE funded?

A: It is funded by individuals, foundations and corporations. AEE has already reached funding in the eight figures and are on target to hit their funding goals over the next three years.

Q: How is the AEE working on the Federal level?

A: From our perspective, the AEE will give Colorado’s cleantech cluster a more substantial voice in Washington. The platform they are creating enables us to partner with other clusters to play a role in DC when it is appropriate. Furthermore, when AEE formed, they merged with the Clean Economy Network (CEN). CEN had a very active advocacy organization and we are fortunate to have the combined experience of the AEE and CEN teams to provide us with eyes and ears on the ground in DC.

Q: How is AEE working with other cleantech organizations?

A: AEE is working with other cleantech organizations in a variety of ways. Many organizations like ours – those that are already established, recognized clusters in their state or region – are becoming chapters of the AEE. These chapters are then the main conduit of contact between member companies and the national organization. In areas where there is not an established principal organization, AEE is actually helping to establish chapters. In yet other areas, where there may be multiple organizations, AEE is working with those groups to establish a single voice for the region. There are currently nine states within the AEE network, and by March of 2012 we expect the number of active chapters to have doubled.

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