Posted on: Monday, December 27th, 2010 at 5:59 pm
by Doug Elbinger, special correspondent www.GreeningDetroit.com
I caught up with Amy Butler while she was on her way to the annual meeting of the Great Lakes Renewable Energy Association. She was in her car and I was at my desk taking notes. Ever since I first met Amy, it has been my impression that she is on the front line of the ‘new energy economy’. If anyone knows who the players are …it must be Amy.
Let me introduce you. Amy Butler is the Director of “The Bureau of Energy Systems”. This is a State of Michigan department, a division of DELEG. A summary of her official responsibilities include managing alternative and renewable energy programs and policies, energy efficiency programs, and “greening Michigan efforts” for a more sustainable economy. If this isn’t enough, she also serves as the Economic Recovery Coordinator for Energy for DELEG.
So as not to waste her time (after all she is driving) I ask only one question. “Amy, let’s cut to the chase. Everyone wants to know where the ‘new economy’ jobs are starting to show up? Are there any particular industries we should watch for?” Amy directed the course of our conversation to ‘advanced lighting’ and referred me to a few of the twenty-some Michigan companies that comprise the core of a new industry. “We even have a new state trade association, The Michigan Solid State Lighting Association”, Amy announces proudly, as evidence of progress.
The ‘lighting’ industry landscape is about to brighten very dramatically. Everything from key-chain flashlights and back-lit signs to household, stadium, and parking lighting will evolve into SSL (solid sate lighting) or as you are already familiar LED …Light Emitting Diode.
Following Amy’s leads, I did several interviews with industry leaders to get their perspective and spent a few days tracking down the abundant, information rich, web-sites (see below) representing the Michigan entrepreneurs forming this new industry.
The following is a summary of our discussions and some exciting developments that will position Michigan as the premier provider of advanced lighting solutions in an emerging global market. Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
Sustainability meet Jobs
By now, the concept of ‘sustainability’ in energy production, conservation, and job creation, is starting to sink into the cultural and political conscience. The business and political will, focused in this direction, is showing up in the form of Michigan’s high technology ‘talent pool’ redirecting efforts from automotive into ‘new technologies’ that create an array of ‘supply chain’ jobs. This means that a variety of new jobs are being created starting with basic scientific research and development, product design, engineering, on to manufacturing, and continue through to marketing, sales and distribution. Take a closer look and the ‘advanced lighting’ industry could be the poster child for this transition. Imagine all the jobs that ‘spin-off’ from any new industry. It’s not just the engineering and manufacturing, but component assembly, testing, and training the work force to install or retrofit these new energy saving lights. In case the importance is not obvious, lets assume that ‘lighting’ in general, is one of the main ‘consumption points’ of all energy used, and any efforts toward conservation and increased efficiency will have significant bottom-line impact. According to industry statistics, if just 25% of the florescent lighting in the United States were converted to LED lighting, we could save fifteen billion dollars in annual electric costs or effectively decommission 130 coal burning plants. In other ‘glowing’ terms this will prevent the release of greenhouse gases equal to ten million autos and reduce carbon emissions by 158 metric tons.
Along with rising energy costs is the rising interest in green building practices, as more ambitious energy conservation targets are set by governments, building contractors, and the general ‘energy bill paying’ public. The need to incorporate ‘advanced lighting solutions’ into new construction and retrofit existing building and facilities is an overall component of achieving sustainability. According to published industry data, projected demand for ‘advanced lighting solutions’ is ‘explosive’ and points to a massive global market with Michigan’s ‘talent pool’ ready, willing, and well positioned to compete on a global scale.