Grid modernization technologies show particular promise for economic development in the state of Washington. That’s what the American Jobs Project found through extensive research and more than 60 interviews with stakeholders and experts throughout the state.
Demand for grid modernization technologies is increasing globally. This creates an opportunity for Washington manufacturers to create middle-income jobs and elevate the state’s companies in the worldwide marketplace.
Washington is well-positioned to benefit from rising global demand for grid modernization technologies given its strong anchor companies, established competitive advantage in the Internet of Things, and robust innovation ecosystem. Opportunities to leverage this momentum to further serve growing regional, national, and global markets offer real benefits for the state economy and for Washington residents.
However, there are several barriers standing in the way of Washington’s grid modernization industry, preventing existing companies from reaching their full potential. These barriers to growth include a lack of access to capital for small- and medium-sized companies and entrepreneurs, a need for more technical training of early-career and mid-level workers, and a dearth of facilities that provide open-access services for companies and researchers to validate, test, and demonstrate new hardware and software products and services. Washington must address these roadblocks to enhance its competitiveness as a hub for grid modernization.
To take full advantage of these opportunities, state leaders can pursue strategies to create a strong foundation for industry growth and help Washington businesses grow, innovate, and outcompete regional, national, and global competitors. With forward-thinking policies, Washington’s grid modernization sector can support 13,800 direct, indirect, and induced jobs annually through 2030. These jobs will spark additional economic development across the state, as employees spend a portion of their earnings in their own communities.
Summary of Policy Recommendations
The analysis presented in the American Jobs Project’s report on Washington culminates in recommendations for state leaders based on best practices in the United States and abroad. Each recommendation identifies opportunities for barrier removal and future growth in the grid modernization sector. While the recommendations are intended to be complementary and would be more powerful if adopted as a package, each can also be viewed as a stand-alone option.
Facilitate Formalization of a Grid Modernization Public-Private Partnership: Leverage existing organizations and relationships to help local businesses steer the growth of the state’s grid modernization industry.
Strengthen and Expand the State’s Foreign Direct Investment Strategy: Leverage national and regional economic development resources and strong international corporate and university brands to attract international grid modernization investment.
Provide Tax Incentives to Attract and Grow New Grid Modernization Businesses and Fill Supply Chain Gaps: Develop incentives for grid modernization companies to conduct research and development (R&D), locate in Washington, and inject capital into local communities.
Access to Capital
Establish a State Fund of Funds to Stimulate the Investment Environment: Reduce investment barriers for early-stage companies by improving access to patient capital.
Improve Washington’s Equity Crowdfunding Law: Streamline equity crowdfunding and create an online hub to increase program uptake.
Support Access to University and National Lab Resources for Businesses: Facilitate small- and medium-sized business access to state-of-the-art laboratory resources and expertise.
Promote the Growth of Specialized Advanced Energy Incubators and Accelerators: Improve startups’ access to mentors and talent with specialized knowledge of the advanced energy industry.
Leverage Philanthropic Funding Via a Foundation Liaison: Strengthen Washington’s resources through collaboration with charitable foundations.
Promote Private-Sector Training: Incentivize businesses to invest in workforce development programs.
Expand Career-Connected Learning: Engage students early to improve graduation rates and build transferrable skills.
Encourage High School Partnerships with Community and Technical Colleges: Guide students through the transition to postsecondary education.
Create a Local Market
Educate and Inform Policymakers on the Benefits of Grid Modernization: Create a market for grid modernization products through outreach and education on the economic benefits to utility customers of grid modernization.
Encourage Utility Innovation: Promote industry R&D through novel incentive packages.
Explore Novel Funding Mechanisms for Demonstration and Infrastructure Projects: Move beyond taxpayer funding for demonstration projects.
Create and Adopt Industry Standards: Ease integration challenges by creating common standards for grid modernization technology and encourage Washington-based companies to adopt the standards.
Define Utilities’ Outcome-Based Objectives for Grid Modernization: Establish goals to guide future investment in grid modernization technologies.