Midwest leaders, Royal Danish Embassy come together for "Switching Gears"

6 March 2009

The Climate Group, in collaboration with Governor Jennifer M. Granholm and the Royal Danish Embassy, convened government and business leaders at "Switching Gears": a summit on bringing low carbon manufacturing jobs and industry to the Midwest region.

Corporate leaders with experience in low-carbon industries and technologies shared the platform with policy makers in a working session on how the Midwest will transition to a new energy economy.

The Royal Danish Embassy and the Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy provided the example of Denmark's successful transition, and offered their perspective on the next major international climate change conference, taking place in Copenhagen later this year.

The morning featured presentations on low-carbon manufacturing, including Whirlpool's energy efficiency appliances; Novozymes's enzymes, which are being used to create next-generation biofuels; and Energy Conversion Devices' thin-film solar technology. These companies showed their commeitment to the region with new capital investments and growth. Energy Conversion Devices is opening a plant in Battle Creek, Michigan, while Novozymes will invest $200 million in a facility in Nebraska.

Promising new developments for the struggling automotive industry also took center stage, with start-ups and established companies discussing how to develop the next generation of personal transport. New companies like Better Place, A123Systems, and Sakti3, along with established players Johnson Controls-Saft and Ford Motor Co., outlined their innovative business models and strategy to re-capture the entire value chain of manufacturing advanced battery technologies for electric vehicles. Specifically, Johnson Controls-Saft discussed their recent partnership with Ford Motor Company, in which they will supply the complete battery system for Ford 's first series production plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV), which will be introduced in 2012.

Lawmakers Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressman John Dingell (D-MI15), who both appeared via video address, and Michigan Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, were united around the urgent need to address climate change, ensure energy security and create new jobs.

Governor Granholm used the keynote address - her first speech at an event focusing on climate change since assuming the chairmanship of the Midwest Governor's Association - to issue a call for new, "green" manufacturing industries to replace lost manufacturing jobs. The Governor made an impassioned plea to the businesses in the room to choose Michigan for relocation and expansion. "Building a low carbon economy that reduces our nation's dependence on foreign oil can be a source of increased innovation and can mean thousands and thousands of new energy jobs for Michigan and the Midwest," Governor Granholm said.

As a sign of their commitment to working in collaboration to renew the region and tackle global climate change, Minister Hedegaard and Governor Granholm signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), agreeing to high-level dialogue, fact-finding missions and sharing of information and technology to work with Michigan and other Midwestern states in their transition to a new energy economy.

Following on the Governor's policy prescriptions for the region, Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard spoke about her country's experience growing its renewable energy and green manufacturing sectors. "Thanks to our investments 20 years ago, today Denmark has a thriving clean tech industry that accounts for about 10 per cent of our total exports and is a major source of employment - in urban centers as well as in rural areas, " said Ms. Hedegaard. She encouraged US policymakers to work towards an international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen noting that, ".through pragmatic policy, we turned crisis into opportunity - and the Midwest region in the United States can do the same."

"We must work with our government and business partners in the Midwest - and demonstrate to them the full potential of a new energy economy," said Michael Allegretti, Director of Government Relations for The Climate Group. "This is essential if we are to achieve the emissions reductions that we need to avoid dangerous climate change and create the economic growth that we need to revitalize our economy."

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