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Posted: September 01, 2010

Road map to a cleantech future

CCIA action plan will set the pace for clean energy commerce in Colorado

Nora Caley

Roadmap.jpg

Colorado's New Energy Economy needs a plan, and the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association is stepping in to help. The CCIA, together with Navigant Consulting and a 25-person steering committee, is developing the Cleantech Roadmap for the state of Colorado.

Christine Shapard, executive director of CCIA, says the road map will be an action plan, not just a report. "A report sits on a shelf," she says. "This will be a living document. It will have specific actions for the state legislature, partnerships that need to be formed, grants that need to be pursued, and timelines and responsible parties."

The responsible parties will likely include the 300 or more clean-energy related companies in Colorado, research entities such as the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), and other parties such as students, investors, attorneys, legislators and others.

"In Colorado we are ranked two or three in the country for having a strong cleantech industry," Shapard says. "If you look at the amount of money raised from venture capital, we are two or three. If you look at the number of employees, we are one or two."

The CCIA was formed in 2008 to promote Colorado's renewable energy and energy efficiency industries. To develop this road map, this year the organization received a total of $200,000 in funding from the Colorado Economic Development Commission, the Colorado Governor's Energy Office, the Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, Colorado School of Mines, and most recently, $80,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

After confirming the final funding from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the CCIA sent out a request for proposal to consulting firms, and chose Navigant Consulting Inc. Navigant's corporate headquarters are in Chicago, and the firm has offices worldwide.

Lisa Frantzis, managing director for Navigant's energy practice, says the firm has prepared cleantech action plans for other states. "We have a wealth of in-house information because of the work we've done with other states, and we have an excellent database and foundation of knowledge of cleantech," she says.

Navigant recently finished a project for the state of Connecticut for the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, looking at jobs creation and revenue creation. For the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, Navigant examined policy options so the state could position itself competitively. The firm recently started working on a project for the state of Massachusetts, looking at job creation. All these projects focused on energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Frantzis, who is based in Navigant's Burlington, Mass., office, says the Colorado action plan has wider, loftier goals. "I think they have cast the net the broadest in terms of cleantech," she says. "I see that as a positive thing. There is much in Colorado that can be leveraged. There is significant opportunity."

According to the CCIA website, the action plan or road map may include changes to the state's legislative/regulatory framework, work-force development programs, and strategies to attract investment and leverage research strengths.

"Part of the goal of the state plan is to create strategies to build investment capital in the state," Shapard says. "That goal will be cross cutting and not specific to each sector."
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The plan looks at four major sectors - solar, wind, smart grid and biofuels - and 38 categories. For example, categories within wind power would include parts of the turbines, such as the gearboxes. The goal is to understand Colorado's strengths and weaknesses, and figure out which industries have the best opportunities.

"This isn't to take a position that wind is better than solar, for example. What our plan does is to say Colorado has these opportunities in solar, but here are the gaps and what needs to be done to fill them," Shapard says. The plan will also look at other states and countries and note how Colorado stands in comparison.

"There will be at the end of this some actions that can benefit all the cleantech technologies in the state," says Jane Pater Salmon, a managing consultant at Navigant's Boulder office. "We will prioritize where the assets can be deployed."

The steering committee consists of 25 individuals who represent eight sectors: wind, solar, bio-derived, smart grid, clean transportation, water technology, storage technology and efficient building products. There are also representatives from the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment, utilities, natural gas and the investment community. The committee has held WebEx online meetings and in-person meetings.

"It's been a wonderful process so far," Pater Salmon says. "We've gotten input from key stakeholders and a lot of valuable insights and thoughts. It has been very much a collaborative process, not just Navigant presenting opportunities for Colorado."

Ron Bernal, chairman of the steering committee, says the roadmap will be the most important deliverable this year for CCIA. "The end goal is we identify all the initiatives and the blueprints necessary for us to be considered an epicenter for cleantech," says Bernal, who was formerly a partner with Sequel Venture Partners, a Boulder venture capital firm that is a founding member of CCIA.

"If you look at the major economies in Colorado, there's tourism, aerospace, agriculture, high tech, and energy, which is traditional energy/cleantech, so it's a major economic driver for the state." Bernal is now with New Enterprise Associates, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture capital firm that is also a member of CCIA.

The CCIA will announce the rollout of the road map/action plan on Oct. 18 at the state capitol. The association plans to hold a press conference. The document, including a 25- to 50-page executive summary, will be available in hard copy and on the CCIA website.

Shapard thinks some action items might have to begin quickly after the event. "If anything needs to be introduced in the 2011 legislative session that needs to be a quick turnaround," she says.
Frantzis says the action plan will look at the near future. "The focus of the whole project is the next three to five years, not 20 years down the pike," she says. "It will be about the things Colorado could be doing immediately to make sure the state is moving in the right direction."
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Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics. She can be reached at noracaley@comcast.net.

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