Thursday in Ann Arbor, about 300 researchers and entrepreneurs came for a two day conference on renewable energy manufacturing. They gave one another pep talks, wake up calls and lots of business cards. Organizers hoped to put engineers and their undiscovered technologies in touch with venture capitalists. Michigan’s universities are top notch for engineering. But they’ve not produced as many patents as some believe they should. Finding the money to bring products to market has been part of the problem.
Thursday’s keynote speaker was Dr. Henry Kelly. He is the Acting Assistant Secretary and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Dr. Kelly oversees a $2.4 billion annual budget intended to hasten the transition to a clean energy economy.
The EERE portfolio includes the SunShot Initiative which aims to reduce the installed cost of utility-scale solar systems to a dollar-a-watt. At a dollar-a-watt, solar energy is cost competitive with other energy sources, even when unsubsidized.
Dr. Kelly also manages programs that will help put one million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, make the nation’s buildings 20% more efficient, and help the United States obtain 80% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.
Secretary Kelly spoke with Chris McCarus. The conference continues Friday at the Michigan League on the Ann Arbor campus.