Thursday, April 18, 2013

CCIA Dispatches from DC

Last week I fled the snowstorms of Colorado for the spring cherry blossoms in Washington DC to lobby Congress on energy tax reform as part of the Advanced Energy Economy’s (AEE) first regional chapter fly-in.  Companies and clean energy organizations from all over the country converged in DC to talk to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee Members of Congress and senior staff.  We had companies and associations from North Carolina, Arkansas, Boston, Michigan, California, Maryland, Minnesota and more.  Ed Williams, the CEO of Novinda, was the industry advocate rounding out CCIA’s team.

Despite the historic gridlock in Congress there is a real bipartisan push to reform the tax code.  One message nobody disagreed with is that our current tax policy is broken and because we don’t have a national energy policy, energy tax policy is the driving force for cleantech.  

The overall theme of our message was promoting a smarter tax policy - one that is technology neutral, outcomes based and sunsets when a particular goal is met.  Unfortunately, the various tax policies benefitting cleantech are composed of one, two and five year sunsets and reauthorizations that combine to create artificial cliffs prohibiting planning and investment.  We need to look no further than the recent brinksmanship and damage done by the recent one-year extension of the wind PTC.  Instead of a one-year extension of the wind PTC, Congress needs to set a goal - like 5% of our baseload electrical energy from wind or X amount of gigawatts deployed, then the tax benefit sunsets.  

Another example I used was in the transportation sector.  Congress should set a goal to reduce foreign imported oil for transportation and any domestic technology (electric vehicles, natural gas vehicles, advanced engine efficiencies, biofuels, more transit etc.) that helps to accomplish the goal gets a tax incentive.   When the goal is achieved then the tax break goes away. This is especially important in the current context of many traditional energy industries getting tax breaks baked into our tax code with no sunset provisions.  The current tax system picks winners and losers and distorts markets thereby decreasing and sometimes flat-out discouraging investment in new innovative technologies.

Democratic and Republican members were impressed that a group came to DC not asking for a handout and volunteering for a sunset to a potential tax provision benefitting their industry.  This message especially resonated with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s staff and Energy Committee Ranking Member Senator Lisa Murkowski’s staff.

While this was more of a 30,000-foot discussion on energy tax policy, if tax reform bogs down again in the DC swamp then cleantech needs to be prepared to fight for specific provisions in another temporary tax extenders package.  This is of course if we can walk and chew gum at the same time.  I’m confident CCIA, AEE and its members can do just that.

Chris Votoupal
Deputy Director

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Energy Conversations from Utah's Energize 2013

As a conversation starter at the Energy Commercialization Center's Energize 2013 conference, I had the pleasure of visiting Snowbird, Utah (my first time in the Utah mountains) and participating in the first effort to connect and build the Rocky Mountain regional cleantech ecosystem.  The Energy Commercialization Center at the University of Utah was one of five 2010 DOE EERE-funded Innovation Ecosystem Development Initiatives that will accomplish such activities as pursuing intellectual property protection for technological innovations; nurturing and mentoring entrepreneurs; engaging the surrounding business and venture capital community; and integrating sustainable entrepreneurship and innovation across university schools and departments. 

During the course of the two-day event, research organizations, companies and industry trade groups from Utah, Colorado and Idaho met to share best practices and ideas for policy, access to capital, and tech transfer among other topics.  My colleagues from Colorado included Dick Franklin, Executive Director of the Rocky Mountain Cleantech Open, and Steve Berens, Executive Director of the Cleantech Fellows Institute, who spoke about Rocky Mountain resources for clean technology innovation and entrepreneurship. 

My session concerned best practices in cleantech policy and how policy can successfully drive job creation.  While the surrounding states are not yet as organized as Colorado, there's a lot we can do together to facilitate the cooperation to grow our clean technology industries.  One of the best parts of the program was meeting new partners like RenewableTech Ventures and Navillum Nanotechnologies that I can plug into Colorado's clean tech universe.  I look forward to future collaboration with Utah's Energy Commercialization Center and the ongoing energy conversation.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Cleantech Fellows Institute Opens Applications for Executives and Entrepreneurs to Bridge Their Talent and Skills into Cleantech

Cleantech Fellows Institute encourages new venture formation, job creation and growth of the cleantech industry

As “Cleantech 2.0” blossoms from the lessons learned over the past decade, smart entrepreneurs and corporate executives are looking to leverage the lessons of the past and launch themselves to success in cleantech. The Cleantech Fellows Instituteaddresses a simple but compelling problem: more seasoned executives are needed everyday to bridge cleantech opportunities to a hungry global market. The objective of the Institute is to help experienced entrepreneurs and executives accelerate their transition into the cleantech sector, stimulating new venture formation, job creation and growth of the cleantech industry.
The Cleantech Fellows Institute is the premiere executive talent bridge and is accepting applicationsnow through July 12, 2013. The program will run from mid-August to mid-December and combines seminars, guest speakers, lab visits, company tours and a capstone project. The rolling admissions process will provide prompt feedback to applicants from the entrepreneurial and corporate community.
“Executives with proven business building experience, a creative drive, and leadship abilities are encouraged to apply," commented Steven Berens, Cleantech Fellows Institute, executive director. “Each candidate must have a strong desire to transition into the cleantech industry through accelerated immersison, networking and technology exposure. Targeted executives include those who have built successful ventures in sectors such as aerospace, biotechnology, information, energy and enterprise technology.”
“I would recommend the Cleantech Fellows Institute to anyone interested in the industry and who wants to make a difference,” said John Tuttle, 2012 Cleantech Fellow. “The Institute team delivered an incredible program that tied together a deep curriculum, an impressive network of cleantech experts and a highly-valuable capstone project. The intensity of the program, combined with the dedicated network of experts, truly created an atmosphere of community. When I finished the program, I really felt that I had built a network that would help me grow my business.”