The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC) has awarded a grant of $150,000 to the newly formed Institute for Energy Innovation and Sustainability (IEIS) in Worcester, Mass., to support the start-up phase of its operations. The IEIS grew out of discussions led by U.S. Congressman James P. McGovern, D-Worcester, and involved local university, civic, and business leaders. The primary goal of the IEIS is economic development and job growth in the clean and alternative energy, energy conservation, and sustainability sectors.
"I am pleased to see this initiative take root," McGovern said. "This region is teeming with the innovators and entrepreneurs in these important fields. Collaboration across the business, education, and government sectors will accelerate company and job growth, promote cleaner and more sustainable sources and uses of energy, and aid citizens in managing their costs of living. The IEIS has the potential to position Worcester as a model city for the development and use of sustainable technologies, and for the conservation of its energy resources."
Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) have hosted the early meetings of the IEIS, and are collaborating to recruit an executive director for the Institute. "Clark and WPI together bring expertise in science, technology, and public policy that will be instrumental in attracting additional members to this venture and in laying the groundwork for success," said McGovern. "Once again they are demonstrating the tangible value that universities bring to our community."
The IEIS will assemble the region's experts in renewable energy and environmental policy to make progress on the three related goals of the sustainability initiative: energy conservation, scientific advances in sustainable energy production, and jobs creation. The IEIS will concentrate on implementing existing energy-saving technologies; generating energy from sustainable sources; and developing new ways to create, transmit, store and use energy. These activities will help support job growth in energy conservation businesses, and will help create new jobs through the commercialization of innovative energy technologies.
Energy sustainability shows great promise for economic development in Worcester. According to a recent study by Pew Charitable Trusts, between 1998 and 2007 the "clean energy economy" surpassed all other job sectors with a growth of 9.1 percent, yielding a total of 777,000 jobs in the U.S. Pew also noted that, in 2008, approximately 80 percent of venture capital investments were focused on the clean energy and energy efficiency sector, and, in 2009, the "cleantech" sector outperformed all other venture capital sectors. Looking ahead, the report cites President Obama's $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as a significant driver of the clean-energy economy because it provides $85 billion in direct spending and tax incentives for energy and transportation-related programs. The study concluded that, benefiting from financial support from the public and private sectors, the clean energy economy is poised to grow significantly.
"The development of renewable sources of energy as well as the design, manufacture, and adoption of products and services that are less energy- and carbon-intensive are essential to both the Commonwealth's economy and our quality of life," said Ian Bowles, secretary of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA). "Clark University and WPI bring substantial complementary capabilities to this enterprise, and can help the IEIS establish a structure to carry out the research, education, training, and business development activities to make this initiative a success."
All of Worcester's educational institutions will be encouraged to participate. The region's technical high schools and community colleges are expected to play major roles in developing the job skills required in sustainability-related research, development, and deployment. In addition, involvement by local government agencies and area corporations is essential to success.
"WPI is eager to participate in the IEIS," said WPI President and CEO Dennis D. Berkey. "This initiative reflects our sustainability values and our motto, 'Theory and Practice.' WPI brings experience and knowledge in the areas of alternative energy and environmental sciences, economic development, and sustainability. Putting this knowledge to work in this forward-thinking initiative will help make Worcester 'greener,' and provide the city with a powerful economic engine."
Clark University President John Bassett added, "The IEIS is a win-win for everyone involved. Clark is committed to a philosophy of 'Making a Difference' in our world. To that end, the Institute provides a superb opportunity for us to help residents and businesses in Worcester by sharing our knowledge and intellectual capital in such areas as the sciences, economic development, environmental policy, risk analysis, and geographic information sciences."
A search is under way for the Institute's executive director, who will coordinate efforts and focus initially on three key points: scientific research, energy usage, and jobs. In addition, the executive director will be responsible for identifying funding sources to sustain and enhance the Institute's programs and will assemble an advisory board representing corporations, government, citizens' groups, and universities.
Worcester is especially well poised to become a hub for sustainable energy thanks to the knowledge-base that exists here, the concentration of enterprises able to translate research into commercial applications, and the large pool of skilled labor. The area's talent pool has already proven a tremendous asset for developing Worcester's manufacturing, healthcare and biotechnology industries.
Over the years, Worcester's city officials and residents have also demonstrated their dedication to sustainability. In 2003, the city unveiled a Climate Action Plan, a commitment to significantly lower its greenhouse gas emissions. In 2005, City Manager Michael O’Brien appointed 14 representatives from city government, businesses, universities, and the environmental community to Worcester's Energy Task Force. The city also recently hired an energy consultant to manage this effort.