NextEnergy: Powering Michigan’s future

NextEnergy: Powering Michigan’s future

By By Jeff Havens

Blueprint includes NextEnergy Center, National

Program, tax-free zone, incentives, steps to spur

demand, demonstration microgrids

Governor John Engler today (April 18, 2002) unveiled NextEnergy—a comprehensive economic development plan to make Michigan a world leader in the research, development, commercialization and manufacture of alternative energy technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells. These technologies include mobile applications to power cars and trucks, stationary uses for homes and factories and portable needs such as laptop computers, cell phones and PDAs. Engler’s energy blueprint proposes the creation of a 700-acre, tax-free NextEnergyZone in York Township near Ann Arbor, building the NextEnergy Center there and attracting alternative energy companies from around the world to the zone, making it a cluster of energy innovation. Governor Engler made the announcement at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn surrounded by fuel cell vehicles built by General Motors, Ford and DaimlerChrysler. He said the plan represents a turning point in history because it will help reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve the environment and strengthen the economy.

“I am proud to launch NextEnergy—Michigan’s plan to nurture innovation, strengthen collaboration and focus on long-term growth and job creation in the alternative energy industry,” said Governor Engler. ”The heart of NextEnergy is transforming our cluster of auto innovation into a cluster of energy innovation. NextEnergy will power Michigan’s future.”

Governor Engler noted that the market for fuel cell products alone is expected to grow to an estimated $95 billion by 2010. In addition, he explained that not acting could put at risk nearly 200,000 Michigan jobs that are either directly or indirectly tied to the engineering and manufacture of engines and transmissions.

“For over a century, Michigan has been the world’s leader in automotive technology. The NextEnergy program, along with a number of other initiatives, are important steps in ensuring that the state of Michigan will remain the leader not only in automotive technology but also in alternative energy technologies for the next century,” said United States Senator Carl Levin. “These initiatives, together with Michigan’s skilled workforce, great educational system and vibrant business climate, will ensure that when the next generation of these technologies are developed, they will be developed in Michigan.”

“The Governor’s proposal isn’t only visionary, it just makes sense,” said U.S. Representative Fred Upton (MI-6). “With the combination of research institutions and auto manufacturers here in Michigan, we’re well positioned to lead the world in the research and development of alternative fuel cells. The fact is, with such tremendous growth expected in this area, it’s important that Michigan is on the cutting edge so jobs are located here as the demand for this technology expands.”

“Michigan’s role as a leader in automotive technology has helped America prosper for nearly a century,” said U.S. Representative John D. Dingell (MI-16). “But America’s growing energy needs can only be met through the development of renewable energy technologies. As the author of many of our nation’s key conservation and renewable energy laws, I believe NextEnergy will position Michigan to lead the nation with 21st century technologies like fuel cells, securing Michigan’s economy for the future.”

“I believe that technology is one of the keys to reducing our dependence on foreign oil,” said U.S. Representative Joe Knollenberg (MI-11). “I am pleased that Governor Engler is taking the steps necessary to make Michigan a world leader in the development of alternative energy technologies. This will benefit not only our auto industry but also the entire state and country.”

“The NextEnergy proposal shows vision that will have a positive impact on the environment and our economy,” said Lana Pollack, president of the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC). “Changing our sources of energy and the way we use our energy is the best way to protect the global environment. The Michigan Environmental Council is pleased to be a part of this important program.”

The complete text of NextEnergy is available at, and highlights of the blueprint include: NextEnergy Center—a state-of-the-art facility affiliated with the University of Michigan will serve as a comprehensive clearing-house and information resource on alternative energy technologies, develop college courses, provide technical assistance and fund industry-university collaborative research and commercialization projects.

Michigan NextEnergyZone—a 700-acre, state-owned site in York Township near Ann Arbor that will become the locus of the alternative energy cluster of innovation. In addition to being designated a tax-free Renaissance Zone, companies that locate there will receive a tax rebate based on the jobs they create in the zone.

National Alternative Energy Program—Designed to complement the work of the NextEnergy Center, the national program could act as a type of Underwriters Laboratory for the development of industry standards, certification systems and to identify research gaps and needs. NextEnergy Tax Incentives—Exemptions from the SBT and personal property tax for companies, or activities within companies, whose primary focus is alternative energy research, development or manufacturing.

Spurring NextEnergy Demand—Steps include an exemption from the sales and use tax of any purchases of stationary and vehicular devices using alternative energy technologies.

NextEnergy Leadership Council—Governor Engler will appoint national experts to this panel to provide critical advice on the implementation of our NextEnergy agenda and on issues ranging from research investment to questions about intellectual property.

NextEnergy Demonstration Microgrids—These microgrids powered by fuel cells or other alternative energy technologies would demonstrate that these solutions are viable.

International NextEnergy Conference—Michigan will host this event where industry and academic leaders can share innovations and work with government officials to develop new energy policy initiatives. “Inspired by the auto pioneers of the last century, we can make the end of the era of the internal combustion engine the beginning of a new age of prosperity based on the hydrogen fuel cell,” said Governor Engler. ”But as we cherish our automotive past, we must be willing to embrace the future, and the future is alternative energy. As we always have, Michigan will lead. Michigan will build it, and they will come.”

For more information call Susan Shafer (517) 335-6397. Jeff Havens is the laboratory manager in the Math and Physical Science Division at Rock Valley College. No rights reserved. Share this information freely. An educated citizenry is the foundation of democracy.

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