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Stanley Pruss

29 January 2010
Stanley Pruss
  • Given your title - Chief Energy Officer and Director of Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth (DELEG) - Michigan seems to be placing energy at the center of job creation and the future economic growth.  Will you tell us more about that?

Under the leadership of Governor Jennifer Granholm, we have looked for areas of economic growth that draw on Michigan's strengths and unique assets while targeting sectors of extraordinary opportunity. What we have found is that clean energy technology provides us with a tremendous potential to create new jobs.  

As the world becomes more concerned with reducing the greenhouse gases causing climate change, and as Americans become more concerned about making our country less dependent on foreign energy sources, the growth prospects in clean energy are tremendous. At DELEG, we believe Michigan is in prime position to make clean energy technology an export industry and job creator.

  • Why has the State decided to focus on energy?

There are three main drivers for national and state engagement in the new energy economy. There's job creation and economic diversification; energy security; and the need to adapt to a carbon-constrained world.  

The flow of capital into the clean energy technology sectors - and the sharp growth in relative contribution of new clean energy resources in the nation and world energy mix -  show that the world's transition to clean, renewable energy is underway.  

The investment trend is accelerating. In 2004, only 2% of the nation's new electrical generation capacity was met by wind energy. In 2008, wind energy represented 42% of all additional generating capacity added to the electrical grid.  

Accelerating these trends is an evolving global consensus that greenhouse gases must be reduced by 80% in the industrialized world. Remarkably, the world's 193 sovereign countries are near consensus on the imperative of dramatically reducing emissions from traditional energy technologies even while recognizing that world electrical demand will double in the next 40 years.

This global transition to clean, renewable energy can be a primary vehicle for Michigan's long-term economic recovery, with the help of prudent policy and financial incentives. It provides opportunities to optimize Michigan's historical industrial strengths and natural resource endowments; to mobilizeour ready and available workforce; and to engage our superior engineering capacity, and our research universities and community colleges.  

  • What type of job growth are you experiencing in low carbon manufacturing and services?

 Earlier this month, the Center for Climate Strategies released a study of the economic impacts of implementing twenty major policy initiatives as part of our strategy to reduce greenhouse gases 20% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. The analysis, by economists at Michigan State University and the University of Southern California, showed that these initiatives would create 129,000 new jobs across the Michigan economy by 2025 and add $25 billion to the Gross State Product.

Meanwhile, from batteries to wind turbines to our state's booming solar industry, Michigan's clean energy strategy has already begun to infuse our state's economy with good-paying, permanent jobs. In the first quarter of last year, the State of Michigan launched a comprehensive employer survey aimed at quantifying the number of private sector "green jobs" - in fields like renewable energy - already existing in Michigan. Our total, over 109,000, shows that Michigan can compete in the new green economy.  


  • In what areas does Michigan see particular opportunities in low-carbon manufacturing?  

In 2010, a steady stream of ground-breakings - particularly in the advanced energy storage technology sector - will demonstrate Michigan's long overdue efforts to diversify our economy.

Michigan targeted advanced energy storage systems, recognizing that next generation battery systems are critical to revitalizing the auto industry as well as a necessary energy storage integration technology for renewable energy systems.  

Our state also has an enormous opportunity in the advanced manufacturing of wind turbine components. Unlike automobile manufacturers, which have been using advanced manufacturing techniques for years, wind turbine manufacturers currently rely on legacy manufacturing systems from the 1960s. At this very moment, manufacturers across the globe are racing to be the first to modernize the production of wind turbine components.With our state's engineering expertise and modernized machining, robotics and advanced materials production, Michigan is positioned to meet the booming global demand for wind turbines and wind turbine components.

Michigan also has a bright future in solar energy. Our legion of solar companies, including Dow, Dow Corning, Uni-Solar, Evergreen, Suniva and Globalwatt - just to name a few - plus the homegrown expertise of the University Research Corridor, our states nationally recognized Energy Frontier Research Centers at the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, and the latest $1 billion expansion at Saginaws Hemlock Semiconductor - a major solar base material manufacturer - position Michigan to capture a significant share of the jobs created by the solar energy supply chain, from research to commercialization.

Our approach is cutting edge and systemic. In the 21st century smart, integrated, efficient energy systems will supplant fossil fuel dependence with clean wind and solar energy, and energy efficient technologies. Michigan's 2010 clean energy plans will capitalize on both the fiscal and policy initiatives that are now on firm footing, establishing Michigan as a national center of manufacturing prowess and technological innovation.


  • What policies and actions has Michigan found to be most beneficial in creating clean tech and low carbon manufacturing jobs? What policies at the federal level would help Michigan?

In December 2008, Governor Granholm reorganized what was Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth into the new Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth, a move that boldly underscores the Governor's desire to create a strategic alliance uniting energy, workforce and economic growth, and to reinvigorate this segment of the economy.

In terms of state policies, Michigan's RPS of 10% by 2015 has given a boost to our nascent renewable energy industry. At DELEG, we are now investigating how a statewide Feed-in Tariff might fit in with our RPS, and lend further support to our state's renewable energy companies.  

Beyond renewables, we also have strong focus on energy efficiency. Public Act 295 of 2008 requires all electric and natural gas utilities in Michigan to establish energy optimization programs that will reduce the future costs of providing electric and natural gas to customers. In particular, programs are designed to delay the need for constructing new electric generating facilities and thereby protect consumers from incurring the costs of such construction.

At the federal level, the implementation of smart climate and energy policies - like a carbon cap-and-trade program - would not only begin to reduce carbon pollution, but would also create good-paying jobs in manufacturing clean energy technologies, weatherizing and updating energy efficient buildings, and making thousands of other products here in the Michigan.


  • How does the Midwest stand to benefit from the implementation of climate and energy policies?

At a time when Michigan and its neighbors in the Midwest continue to experience job losses and a challenging economic outlook, the new energy economy is emerging as a prime focus for job creation and retention. Even while the Midwest has lost more than 1.2 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 (MGA 2009 Energy Platform), recent studies - including the Michigan Green Jobs Report - suggest that new energy industries can create thousands of new jobs in our state and region over the next decade. 

In fact, in Michigan, new energy production jobs grew by 7.7% between 2005 and 2008, while the rest of the Michigan economy was shrinking. (MI Green Jobs Report)


  • We've heard a lot about advanced battery production and electric vehicle manufacturing in the news.  What can we expect to hear next from Michigan?

Soon, a new Michigan company, Astraeus, will begin using newly designed advanced tooling machinery to produce wind turbine hubs faster and with more precision than any place in the world. Thereafter, new tooling machinery will be designed and fabricated in Michigan to improve quality and reduce costs for a variety of next generation turbine components.

In addition, through yet to be announced exciting new collaborations, Michigan will create the next generation of lightweight, carbon fiber materials for wind turbines. These will improve quality and performance, making them more powerful and efficient, while cutting the unit cost of producing energy. 

Thanks to such game-changing innovations by Michigan companies, our state will soon be the birthplace of the lightest, strongest, most efficient, most durable and cost-effective wind turbine components in the world.


  • The Climate Group found significant economic opportunity for Michigan to manufacture wind turbine components, hybrid powertrains and advanced batteries with climate and energy policy in place. Does that resonate with what you're experiencing today?

Yes, absolutely.


Stanley "Skip" Pruss was appointed by Governor Jennifer M. Graholm as director of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DELEG) and as the state's new Chief Energy Officer in 2008. He oversees the workforce and economic development efforts to prepare for Michigan's new energy economy.

Mr. Pruss previously served as Governor Granholm's Special Advisor on Renewable Energy and the Environment, and, from January 2003 to August 2007, as Deputy Director of the Department of Environmental Quality.

Prior to this, Mr. Pruss was the Assistant Attorney General in Charge of Michigan's Consumer Protection Division and Chair of the Public Protection Practice Group within the Department of Attorney General.He practiced environmental protection and natural resource law for 13 years and was the legal advisor to the Natural Resources Commission and the Department of Natural Resources.


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