New Report Sets Keys to Success for Maryland Clean Energy Economy

By: Catherine Stephens, University of Maryland

COLLEGE PARK/ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Investments in clean energy innovations can provide the state of Maryland a foundation on which it can build a strong economic future, says a new comprehensive report by the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute (MEI²) housed at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering.

The Present Status and Future Potential of Maryland’s Clean Energy Innovation System report provides an in-depth analysis of the state’s support of clean energy and offers a robust set of recommendations to elevate Maryland’s leadership in clean energy innovation to provide economic benefits for its citizens. 

“Worldwide, new investments in clean energy have been more than $300B per year every year since 2014, with more than $50B per year in the United States. For states such as Maryland, which has a statewide societal commitment to clean energy, the growing world market provides a natural opportunity for economic development,” said UMD Distinguished University Professor Ellen Williams, the lead author of the report. 

According to the report, the state has the tools, capacity and forward-looking thinkers to become a leader in clean energy innovation and reap its economic and societal benefits, and can do so by taking a number of key steps, including:  

  • Designate clean energy as an economic development opportunity by diversifying existing funding priorities of the state. 
  • Provide developmental support for clean energy firms through competitive funding distribution to universities and other research entities.
  • Expand seed funding and developmental support for clean energy innovation firms by establishing a program of competitively awarded early-stage innovation funding for clean energy firms.
  • Judge progress through five-year stages using quantitative success metrics including growth in clean energy firm numbers, federal and private sector funding per company, and the speed of the growing number of clean energy firms in delivering new products manufactured in Maryland.
  • Expand existing funds and incentives through Investment Incentive Tax Credits and associated TEDCO Investment Funds to include clean energy technology 
  • Increase financial support for clean energy innovation by increasing the Maryland Energy Innovation Fund (MEIF) to the level of $4.5 million per year for an initial period of 5 years to support early-stage innovation. 
  • A full list of the recommendations can be found in the policy brief

“With its top-ten state ranking in innovation capability, its strong University system and the technological strength of its workforce, [the state of] Maryland is well able to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Williams, a physicist who works at the interface of energy technology and policy and is known for her research in surface properties and nanotechnology and for her engagement with technical issues in energy and national security, including during stents as director (2014-17) of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and as chief scientist (2010-14) at British Petroleum (BP) where she oversaw a consortium of university researchers studying a wide range of “clean energy” topics as part of BP’s Energy Sustainability Challenge.

“By creating MEI² and calling for this report, the State has taken an important step in recognizing the economic development potential of clean energy innovation,” Williams said.

The report says: “Maryland’s future economic success depends on the ability of its companies and institutions to innovate – creating a competitive advantage in new areas that provide opportunities for its companies and citizens. Over the past several decades, the state systematically and successfully invested in commercial development based on in-state discoveries and intellectual property in biotechnology. Now, Maryland’s innovation in clean energy technologies provides another foundation on which the state can diversify and build a strong economic future.”

The report was developed with input from a wide range of stakeholders, including a cross-campus effort at the University of Maryland, College Park, and with support by the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute; the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences (CMNS); the University of Maryland Global Sustainability Initiative; the University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering; and the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. 

“States are acting rapidly to advance their clean energy and environmental goals,” said Kavita Surana, assistant research professor at the University of Maryland Center for Global Sustainability and a coauthor of the report. “Linking these broader societal goals with clean energy innovation-driven opportunities for local economic development and employment can be a win-win. The evidence-based analysis developed in this report for Maryland can also be a template for informing other states as they aim to meet these dual goals.”

“Maryland’s universities are at the forefront of energy research, leading the nation in major energy innovation awards such as those by ARPA-E,” said Eric Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute. 

“The Governor and Legislature recognized this opportunity when they created the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute in 2017 and moreover had the forethought to mandate this report as part of that legislation,” Wachsman said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the report and the opportunity it demonstrates for the State of Maryland, if its recommendations are enacted, to translate that research and innovation into commercial successes for both economic growth and a more sustainable environment.” 

See additional information in MEI² release.

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