Michigan's clean energy future on display at C3 Summit
SOUTHFIELD—State and federal officials are bullish on the ability of industry in the United States in general, and Michigan in particular, to meet the challenges of “decarbonizing” the economy to combat climate change and clean up the environment.
And plenty of companies are lining up to meet that challenge, in everything from destructing toxic PFAS chemicals from the environment, to building better energy storage, to increasing recycling, to making boating green with electric drive systems.
That was the inspiring message from Thursday’s second annual C3 Summit, convened by the C3 Accelerator, an initiative of the Centrepolis Accelerator at Lawrence Technological University and funded by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. More than 250 people attended the meeting at The Mint conference center in Lathrup Village, and more watched online.
The C3 Accelerator aims to assist product development in cleantech, climatech, and the circular economy, meaning businesses with products or services that improve operational performance, productivity, or efficiency, while reducing costs, inputs, energy consumption, waste, and pollution.
David Howell, acting director and principal deputy director of the federal Department of Energy’s Office of Manufacturing of Supply Chain and Office of Vehicle Technologies, was featured in a keynote discussion sharing the commitments being made by the federal government to strengthen critical material and component supply chains for clean energy products such as electric vehicles.
Ashley Grosh, vice president of Breakthrough Energy Fellows—an initiative founded by Bill Gates to make the world economy carbon neutral by 2050—described her program that provides living stipends and research funding for those pursuing green energy advances.
A panel discussion moderated by David Terry, executive director of the National Association of State Energy Officials, quizzed Zach Kolodin, chief infrastructure officer in the Office of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Richard Ramirez, head of innovation and technology corporate social responsibility at DTE Energy, and Brandon Hofmeister, senior vice president of governmental, regulatory, and public affairs at Consumers Energy, about the future of Michigan’s green energy infrastructure.
Ramirez said DTE is managing the process of going to renewables “without killing ratepayers.” Hofmeister said Consumers has broad goals of decarbonizing its electric and gas business, phasing out coal generation by 2025 and installing 8,000 megawatts of solar capacity over the next decade, and improving energy efficiency and grid management to avoid the need for new power plants. Both utilities are also working on initiatives for fleets and residential customers to enable the purchase of more electric vehicles. And Kolodin said such efforts would result in improved health for economically challenged neighborhoods that bear the brunt of activities such as transportation and energy production.
“Imagine communities near major trucking routes where the trucks are powered by hydrogen or batteries,” Kolodin said. “Those will be cleaner and healthier communities with lower rates of asthma.”
All three men said efforts need to be increased to help small business and local units of government make use of the many federal energy grant programs now available. And they said all green initiatives will require investment in workforce development.
Dan Radomski, executive director of the Centrepolis Accelerator, noted that the event couldn’t be more timely, given the recent passage of hundreds of billions of dollars in federal climate change reduction funding.
“More money is being invested in cleantech than ever before,” Radomski said. “We’re electrifying our communities and it’s not just electric vehicles. It’s transportation, buildings, and the manufacturing sector.”
The event also featured a “fireside chat” with Radomski and Liesl Clark, director of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy. She described the development of the MI Healthy Climate plan, released in April after input from a wide variety of stakeholders in a Council for Climate Solutions. The plan’s recommendations fall into six categories: commit to environmental justice; clean the electric grid; electrify vehicles and increase public transit; decarbonize homes and businesses; drive clean innovation in industry; and protect Michigan’s land and water.
“I think that because all Michiganders love our Great Lakes, all Michiganders are environmentalists,” Clark said. “Sometimes our environmental policies can get mired in this bickering. There’s a really important balance between economic development and the environment, and we know how to do that here in Michigan.”
The C3 Summit featured exhibits from more than 30 cleantech companies developing and manufacturing their products in Michigan. The event also hosted a pitch competition that was judged by representatives with prominent cleantech investment firms. Ten companies competed for $75,000 in prizes in a pitch competition. Winners of awards sponsored by Centrepolis and EGLE were:
Best C3 Growth Stage Company Award: $25,000 investment: Hercules Electric Mobility, a Farmington Hills-bsaed company developing a novel modular electric propulsion system that can be integrated across multiple recreational mobility applications such as marine or automotive.
Runner up C3 Growth Stage Company Award, $10,000 investment: Dunamis Charge, a Detroit-based company developing electric vehicle charging technology.
Best C3 Early Stage Company Award, $25,000 investment: Great Lakes Crystal Technologies, an East Lansing company commercializing crystalline diamond manufacturing technology developed for advanced applications in electronics, photonics, and quantum technologies.
Runner up C3 Early Stage Company Award: $10,000 investment, sponsored by EGLE and the Centrepolis Acceleartor: Enspired Solutions, an East Lansing company developing an innovative water treatment solution to permanently destroy toxic PFAS molecules by turning them into non-toxic byproducts on site.
People’s Choice Award, selected by the audience, $5,000 grant sponsored by Ward Law: Pivot Materials, a Detroit company manufacturing sustainable, eco-friendly, and cost-competitive biomaterials by upcycling agricultural waste.
Founded in 2018 by LTU and the City of Southfield, the Centrepolis Accelerator is one of the few business incubators in the nation that assists physical product developers and manufacturers, rather than software developers or service companies. It provides funding, dedicated product development and manufacturing experts, and a wide variety of business services out of a 6,300-square-foot office and prototyping center on LTU’s Southfield campus. The accelerator is also unique in that it provides services to both startups and established small businesses. Since inception, it has worked to create 58 new companies, commercialize 200-plus new products, generate $89 million in new capital, and create almost 400 Michigan jobs with an average annual salary of $57,000. Its clients have been granted 255 patents.
Lawrence Technological University is one of only 13 private, technological, doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering, and Specs@LTU. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, theory and practice education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include nearly 80 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.
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