Policy Bank

In our search to find the best-fit policies for our target states, we came across dozens of national and global best practice policies, innovative ideas, and program models. This policy bank aggregates many of those strategies for public access so stakeholders can learn more about the ways that citizens, businesses, and law makers can help to foster good-paying jobs in the advanced energy economy. 

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Many states suffer from “brain drain” of STEM graduates to out-of-state jobs. To address this barrier, STEM-educated students could be incentivized to remain in the state following graduation. For example, the Opportunity Maine program provides annual lump-sum tax credits to students who graduate from a Maine college and go on to live and work in the state. Individuals qualify if they maintained Maine residency while attending an accredited state higher education institution, obtained an associate’s or bachelor’s degree on or after January 1, 2008, and worked for an in-state employer after... (learn more)
Employers in some states are having difficulty finding qualified workers to fill open positions. Employers report that job candidates lack the required work experience and technical skills. A state could address the skills gaps in the targeted advanced energy sector by expanding public-private training partnerships. State counties could establish or expand public-private partnerships in the targeted sector as a mechanism for improving vocational training. This concept is not novel or untested; in 2011, Siemens—a medical technology and gas turbine manufacturer—moved into North Carolina and partnered with University of North Carolina and Central Piedmont... (learn more)
In order for a state’s advanced energy economy to thrive, the state will need workers with advanced energy and energy engineering skills beyond a basic knowledge of STEM concepts. Currently, the higher education systems of some states lack an energy-related college major. Additionally, professional degree programs do not offer courses focused on energy. A state should encourage its higher education institutions to consider establishing interdisciplinary energy engineering degree programs. New energy majors could draw heavily from existing courses, faculty, and industry relationships, minimizing startup costs. Universities that already have a strong... (learn more)
Advanced composite manufacturing is an industry with high projected growth that pays middle-class wages. However, advanced composite manufacturers are more likely to locate their facilities in regions with highly skilled workers. Workers in regions that suffer from high unemployment rates and low wage levels would benefit greatly from the creation of new advanced composite manufacturing plants. Assuming demand for advanced composite skills will exist, offering composites training courses in high school could make students employable in composites manufacturing upon graduation. An example of how to incorporate training into high schools can... (learn more)
In states with a low population growth rate and a high rate of retiring citizens, there may be a need for targeted workforce incentives to fill gaps in key industry clusters, as well as a need for a dynamic and technically-skilled workforce. Policy makers can help clear pathways for young workers to pursue careers in advanced energy and fill these gaps. To accomplish this goal, a state could create curricula enhancements for advanced energies in the main credentialed programs in universities, apprenticeship programs, and community colleges. Some states have taken the initiative to provide energy education... (learn more)
Offshore wind turbine installation and maintenance requires challenging new skillsets. Workers must know how to safely weld or repair turbines, all while strapped into a harness hundreds of feet in the air. In addition to the challenges of working at the height of an 18-story tall building, workers must be prepared for heavy winds, rain, and large, moving equipment. Therefore, a training facility with lifelike replicas of towers is essential to prepare workers for a variety of situations and minimize risks. In Europe, project developers rely on third party firms to... (learn more)
The offshore wind industry is expected to grow and some states may experience offshore wind workforce development gaps. Welding, in particular, is a skill that must be refined for offshore wind because as wind turbines become larger, welders need to be more precise with measurements. For example, while a shipyard fabricates to the centimeter, welders of wind turbines fabricate to the millimeter. A large portion of welders in the U.S. are not certified for those tighter welding tolerances. A mobile training facility could bring expensive equipment to sites along the... (learn more)
There is increasing demand in the high performance buildings industry for a workforce that incorporates a new set of advanced skills into the necessary traditional skill set. To address this knowledge gap, a state could look to its universities and technical colleges to provide certificate programs in energy efficiency and high performance building assessment. While various community colleges within a state may already offer relevant degree and certificate programs, a state could establish a specialized degree program at several community colleges that specifically focuses on high performance building construction. California community... (learn more)
Many states boast a strong base of manufacturing firms that positively impact the state’s economy and contribute to national and global energy efficiency markets. To enhance the growth of advanced energy technology manufacturing within the state, state leaders could facilitate public-private partnerships that expand competition and innovation capacity of small and medium-sized manufacturers. This can be accomplished by promoting advances in manufacturing technology and the corresponding workforce trainings to ensure that workers can keep up with skill demand. High-performance computing technology and new modeling simulation and analysis can build competitive... (learn more)
To gain an advanced manufacturing job, many Americans will need to upgrade their skills. Most workers cannot afford to quit their current jobs to go back to school full-time. Instead, part-time programs are needed, so that workers can build upon their current skills while still bringing home a paycheck. Existing programs, such as an associates degree in advanced manufacturing engineering technology, take years to complete on a part-time schedule. Programs could be modeled after Tennessee’s successful part-time training program.   Oak Ridge Associated Universities offers a one-year, 25-hour-per-week Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development... (learn more)
Jobs in advanced energy require highly-skilled employees or specialized training. Individuals seeking employment and firms in need of trained workers must therefore pay to improve skill sets. Investing personal or company funds for workforce development can be a barrier to upgrading skills. However, a state could turn this barrier into an opportunity by incentivizing investment in solar and wind workforce development through specialized tax credits for employing and training qualified workers. A state could look to Oklahoma’s successful Aerospace Engineer Workforce Tax Credit as a potential model for establishing an advanced... (learn more)
Electric vehicles (EVs) offer a host of advantages, including increased energy security, improved air quality and public health, and a variety of economic benefits. Recognizing these benefits, thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia have initiated programs to increase the number of EVs on their roads. With ownership of electric vehicles (EVs) growing, the need for an electrified transportation system is clear. Charging stations are needed in multifamily residences, commercial parking lots, and public spaces. Unless communities meet this demand for energy by strategically locating charging stations, vehicle range will be... (learn more)
Net metering is the primary mechanism for compensating residential and small-scale solar projects. Under net metering, customers with renewable electric generators can reduce their electric bill by generating some or all of their power and receive a credit from their electric provider for any excess generation. Some states impose several restrictions on qualifying solar projects for net metering. For example, the size of an individual solar project is restricted by the customer’s historical annual electricity usage as opposed to available rooftop space. This could limit customers to putting solar on only... (learn more)
 Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs allow property owners to finance investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency with a loan that is repaid through their property tax bill. The loans are attractive for borrowers because energy investments often require more capital than would otherwise be available to many residents or commercial property owners. Lenders are willing to offer attractive interest rates because their loan is secured by a tax lien on the property. PACE financing is now available in more than 800 U.S. municipalities and over 80 percent of... (learn more)
Costly and inconsistent permitting and approval processes burden the solar industry. Municipalities and counties in many states have varying permitting and interconnection procedures and fees, which significantly slow the solar installation process and increases costs to customers and installers. Furthermore, high costs due to cumbersome permitting requirements have been shown to deter solar installers from entering markets entirely. Modernizing solar permitting for residential and non-residential customers is a low-cost, straightforward way to strengthen state solar markets. Addressing these challenges will reduce complexity, cut down soft costs, and signal to solar installers... (learn more)
 Solar Made Simple: The Benefits of Community SolarCustomers purchase the amount of solar they can afford, rather than investing in a whole system.Permitting, site assessments, and interconnection challenges are all handled at the project level and not by individuals, saving time for customers.Utilities can also participate and help ensure benefits to the grid.Programs can be designed to allow customers to transfer their energy to new homes.Renters in multi-unit buildings and business owners are able to participate. Approximately 85 percent of U.S. residential customers can neither own nor lease residential systems because... (learn more)
Certain states have been successful in courting solar manufacturing companies. In a 2015 deal between SolarCity and New York, the state agreed to invest $750 million in tax breaks and the company agreed to create 3,000 jobs in the state of New York. Likewise, the city of Jackson, Mississippi brokered a deal with Seraphim, a Chinese solar module manufacturer, to invest $50 million and create 250 jobs. States can attract similar manufacturing success by establishing or expanding a tax abatement program to apply to solar manufacturers. Passing a uniform tax abatement... (learn more)
Homeowners may be reluctant to install rooftop solar due to high upfront costs and difficulty obtaining financing. For new construction homes, financing is much simpler—the cost of the solar system is included in the mortgage. Some states do not currently have incentives or requirements for homebuilders to install solar on new homes. For nearly a decade, the federal government offered a tax credit for energy efficient new home construction. The Energy Policy Act of 2005 established federal tax credits of up to $2,000 for builders if new construction homes met energy... (learn more)
What are Building Energy Conservation Codes?The International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) is a residential building code created by the International Code Council to establish minimum design and construction requirements for energy efficiency in buildings. Codes established by the International Code Council are the most widely adopted codes for residential structures in the United States and many other global markets. Commercial building codes are largely based on the ASHRAE 90.1 standards developed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE).Some states currently uses building codes that predate... (learn more)
Options for financing solar projects include leases and third party ownership with power purchase agreements (PPAs). Under a lease, a customer pays for the system over a specific period of time with low upfront costs. However, leases are not an available option to all customers, due to financial constraints. With a PPA, a third party owns the solar system and the customer contracts to buy the electricity from the third party, usually at a rate lower than retail electricity rates. Some states allow solar leases, but do not authorize solar... (learn more)
Benchmarking building energy performance is an important tool for realizing energy savings. Benchmarking informs businesses and other organizations about how they use energy, where they use it, and what drives their energy use. It provides information about opportunities to increase profitability by lowering energy costs and offers a reference point for gauging the effectiveness of energy management practices and insights for continuous improvement. Additionally, benchmarking gives governments information that can be used to set building codes and standards for the future. Consistent benchmarking translates into tangible energy savings: buildings that... (learn more)
Because of the way utilities are structured, utility companies lack incentives to encourage investment in energy efficiency and to explore innovations that would serve their customers. Traditionally, utilities are authorized to recover their costs and provide a reasonable rate of return for their investors. Based on estimated sales, regulators set a price on electricity for the next several years that allows the utility to recover their revenue requirement. This structure can create problems if energy efficiency or distributed energy generation reduces a utility’s sales. If electricity sales are below estimates,... (learn more)
Net metering is the primary mechanism for compensating residential and small-scale solar projects in most states. Under net metering, customers with renewable electric generators can reduce their electric bill by generating some or all of their power and receiving a credit (at the full retail rate) from their utility for any excess generation. Net metering guarantees a return on investment, making it a major driver of solar deployment. In some states, solar net metering is currently only available to single-property owners. Those states could extend policy benefits to other types of... (learn more)
Relying solely on building expensive new power generation in response to state energy requirements could be a costly mistake that state ratepayers must pay for.State policymakers would be wise to encourage utilities to allow permanent and dispatchable forms of demand reduction and to participate in electricity capacity markets through their Independent Service Operator (ISO) or Regional Transmission Operator (RTO). For example, a supermarket may be able to automatically dim its lights in response to a dispatch signal from the grid operator. Alternatively, a factory could make its entire operation more... (learn more)
Demand response is a pricing structure that reduces utility and grid operator costs by creating incentives for customers to adjust their demand for electricity in response to system conditions. Properly managed demand response can greatly reduce the long-term cost of managing an electric grid by reducing the need to build expensive “peaking” power plants and replacing them with demand reductions from end-users during peak hours.Existing state demand response programs are limited in the options they provide to customers. While utilities have varying amounts of demand response, some of it is... (learn more)
Other countries have shown that to overcome offshore wind’s complicated supply chain and logistics, regional partnerships are a necessity. The lack of coordination in the United States is a key reason that foreign investors do not see states as a stable markets for investment. With several east coast states pursuing offshore wind projects, including Rhode Island, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, the potential for strong regional partnerships exists. State governors could lead a regional effort similar to the expired Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which could allow states... (learn more)
Financing home energy improvements can be challenging because these types of investments often involve high upfront capital investments. This financial barrier can be prohibitive, especially for working families and seniors living on fixed incomes. To overcome these barriers, states should consider providing utility customers with on-bill financing, a simple and convenient tool for covering the upfront costs of efficiency improvements.On-bill financing allows utilities (or financial institutions) to provide the upfront capital to finance energy efficiency improvements through a loan that is repaid over time on the customer’s monthly utility bill.... (learn more)
Business owners across the country face tough decisions associated with where to locate their facilities, especially given the great variability in taxation from one locality to another. Obtaining information from all across a state can lead to countless hours on the phone without answers. The process gets no easier after this initial decision, as acquiring permits and licenses in most states is a long and tedious process as well. These are just some of the many soft, or indirect, costs that businesses face. These costs can also include supply chain... (learn more)
In order to increase wind or solar power capacity, regulators must continue to ensure that energy supply meets energy demand, as well as plan for new transmission infrastructure. Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs) and Independent Systems Operators (ISOs) are third party grid operators that oversee these responsibilities, ensuring homes and businesses continue to receive power. However, some state electricity markets lack a central balancing authority, such as an RTO or ISO. States with separate, uncoordinated balancing authorities are missing out on a significant opportunity to plan for increased renewable deployment, pool... (learn more)
Small-to-medium sized firms in the United States typically manufacture small-to-medium sized wind turbines, most commonly used for distributed wind generation. Although the domestic market for small, distributed wind systems has stagnated in recent years, the growing international market is an opportunity for U.S. manufacturers. Small to medium-sized wind turbine manufacturers in the United States have exported products to more than 130 countries, with exports accounting for up to 80 percent of total U.S. sales in recent years. Worldwide installations of small wind turbines are predicted to reach almost 3 GW... (learn more)
 Rural U.S. communities benefit from wind development. In Texas, the state with the most installed wind capacity, an analysis of rural western counties showed the economic activity to be $520,000 per MW of installed wind capacity. On a national level, local landowners receive about $180 million in lease payments from wind producers, and over an eight-year period county-level income increased by $11,000 per MW of installed capacity. However, overly restrictive setback requirements can prevent farm families and rural school districts from receiving the economic benefits of local wind development. A setback... (learn more)
Wind turbines can have up to 8,000 components, representing a significant hurdle in supply chain management. Large in-state wind component manufacturers can be encouraged to bring other members of the supply chain into the state through an Anchor Company Tax Credit.Rhode Island created an Anchor Institution Tax Credit to bolster the offshore wind industry. If a Rhode Island anchor company is responsible for a job-creating supplier locating in Rhode Island, the anchor company receives a tax credit. For instance, if a wind developer lures a manufacturer of subsea cables, the... (learn more)
Offshore wind farms require significant investment and planning of waterside ports. Before development of offshore wind turbine farms can begin, states will need to build specialty ships to facilitate the installation process and begin manufacturing wind turbines near the coast. State ports are not currently prepared to handle this increase in manufacturing activity and shipbuilding infrastructure. Port planning and upgrades should begin as soon as possible to prevent a delay in wind development.In the United Kingdom, the Port of Grimsby has been dedicated to wind activities. Via coordination with local... (learn more)
PACE programs allow property owners to finance investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency with a loan that is repaid through their property tax bill. These loans are attractive for many borrowers because they help cover capital costs for energy investments that may otherwise be too expensive for many people. Lenders are willing to offer attractive interest rates because the loans are secured by a tax lien on the borrower’s property. Unfortunately, in many states, the enabling legislation contains specific definitions that does not always include battery systems as an... (learn more)
In many cases, utilities conduct a pilot project to test the feasibility and reliability of a new technology. Pilot project capacities are typically small—less than 1 megawatt (MW). However, utility-scale battery pilot projects must be larger in order to truly demonstrate the value of the technology. For example, a 100 MW natural gas plant seeking to invest in utility-scale battery technology would require a 20 MW battery for accurate results in its pilot project. With an estimated cost of over $30 million, this is an unusually large pilot project. Funding... (learn more)
Balancing supply and demand of renewable electricity can be a challenge, particularly due to the intermittency of solar and wind sources. Effective utility-scale battery options would bolster state renewable energy systems by saving excess energy for future use, especially during times of low generation. Batteries are particularly beneficial to solar power systems due to the cost benefit of reducing curtailment. States could support battery technology by establishing long-term procurement goals for utility-scale and distributed energy storage. This storage mandate would reinforce the value that energy storage provides the grid and... (learn more)
A barrier to full-scale adoption of utility-scale batteries is a lack of understanding of the technology and the increased reliability and cost-efficiency batteries bring to the grid. There are several trade associations across the country aimed to spur the clean energy economy in their state. Establishing a utility-scale battery trade association in a state would help educate policymakers, foster strategic public-private relationships, and identify opportunities for growth for the industry in that state.Several states have become leaders in energy storage by establishing  industry-based associations. For example, New York created NY... (learn more)
In many instances, state legislatures negotiate tax incentives on a company-by-company basis. While this method of negotiating may work well with large companies that can afford to negotiate with several states simultaneously, a uniform tax incentive for battery companies could attract more small- and medium-sized companies in the industry.Instead of negotiating tax abatements with each individual company, states could establish or expand a tax abatement program to include battery deployments and manufacturers. Passing a uniform tax abatement for all battery deployments and manufacturers, rather than negotiating project-by-project with manufacturers, would... (learn more)
The most significant barrier for the utility-scale battery industry is accurately valuing the multitude of services that batteries provide to the grid. Utility-scale batteries do not generate electricity or direct revenue. However, the efficiency, resiliency, transmission, and other valuable ancillary services they do offer are not typically assigned a dollar value. Instead, single metrics are used, which fail to account for the wide array of benefits that batteries provide. In the past five years, new federal and regional policies have updated electricity market structures, which allow utilities to monetize the... (learn more)
Tax credits can provide an important support mechanism to businesses and are valued for their simplicity and immediate availability. Tax credits are a form of co-investment: if the private sector invests, the government will provide a corresponding and measurable level of support. However, income tax credits generally are only valuable to entities that have a tax liability (i.e., taxable profits). Most new companies and startups do not make a profit for several years, leaving them unable to take advantage of tax exemptions.  Companies in the expansion phase use revenue to... (learn more)
For optimal grid operation, grid assets need to respond quickly, particularly for frequency regulation and demand response. Technologies that decrease response times provide tremendous value. Utility-scale batteries can provide the grid with flexibility on a minute-by-minute basis and should be evaluated accordingly. Many utilities currently only offer hourly pricing information to the public. Without sub-hourly pricing information, utility-scale battery companies cannot prove the full extent of the value of their product. The battery industry needs system-level data in order to prove its commercial case and demonstrate the potential cost-savings for... (learn more)
States could use energy savings performance contracting to help finance EV purchases. Performance contracting would be especially beneficial for public entities seeking to add EVs to their fleets, because the contracts bring in third-party energy service companies (ESCOs). Third-party energy service companies (ESCOs) operate on a performance contract to develop, finance, and install energy efficiency projects in buildings. ESCOs traditionally serve governments, hospitals, universities, and schools, saving these end-users a total of $50 billion in avoided energy costs as of 2014. Unlike public entities, ESCOs can benefit from the federal... (learn more)
Transporting wind turbines requires considerable planning and expense due to size and weight of components. Each blade can weigh approximately 77 tons per transportation unit and towers can be up to 410 feet tall. Transportation and logistics efforts can account for as much as $150,000 per turbine, or about 20 percent of total installed cost. As a result of this high cost burden, wind turbine manufacturers must give serious consideration to transportation and logistics issues as facility locations are chosen.In order to attract turbine manufacturers, capitalize on the wind components... (learn more)
The high cost of offshore wind is still a barrier to deployment in the United States, despite the fact that Congress recently extended the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) another five years. To signal to foreign financiers that states are committed to offshore wind development, states must not rely solely on the federal PTC. State leaders could enact a state-level wind credit to offer additional financial support. The cost of the wind credit can be offset by income from leasing state lands for renewable energy development, as New Mexico has... (learn more)
Corporate demand for renewable energy is growing, and some states are primed to capitalize on this demand. As renewable energy has become increasingly cost-effective, companies have started setting sustainability goals that include purchasing more renewable energy. Fortune 500 companies, including Intel Corporation and Starbucks, have increasingly declared their commitment to renewable energy. By the end of 2015, fifty-one companies had signed on to a collaborative declaration demanding access to clean electricity. These firms purchased 3.4 GW of renewable energy in 2015—three times the amount purchased in 2014. For many corporations,... (learn more)
Property taxes can have significant impacts on the financial viability of new and existing solar PV systems: an average solar system can raise the value of a home by up to $20,000, and increase the property taxes accordingly. Bundling solar PV installations into property tax assessments lowers the incentive to adopt solar because it raises costs for solar homeowners. A solar property tax exemption is a simple measure to incentivize residential investments in solar. Thirty-eight states including Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, and North Dakota currently grant property tax exemptions for solar... (learn more)
Although solar deployment is expanding across the country, many people still lack access to solar due to high upfront costs and lack of information on financial incentives. Additionally, consumers are less likely to transition to solar if neighbors are not leading the way. This solar contagion phenomenon occurs in communities regardless of income levels or population density. States could capitalize on this “neighborhood effect” to increase demand and access to solar by establishing a group purchasing program. Connecticut has created Solarize programs that allow communities to buy solar in bulk at... (learn more)
Biogas projects require large upfront capital investment and, in most cases, the use of financing. Low-cost financing is critical to creating a favorable economic environment for biogas projects. In order for the pay-back period for a biogas project to be within an acceptable time frame, the project must be financed at a low interest rate. Due to the perceived high risk of biogas projects, low interest rates are difficult to obtain. Given the economic potential and public health benefits of capturing methane from waste, state leaders should consider improving access... (learn more)
Advanced energy manufacturers face several barriers to entry in the market, including the high costs of machines and materials. State policymakers can remove obstacles and make their state a leader in composite manufacturing by initiating a Factory Retooling for Advanced Energy Manufacturing program. This program would encourage in-state manufacturing of advanced energy products through a revolving loan fund for factory retooling. States can model their factory retooling initiative after successful programs in Wisconsin. Wisconsin established the Clean Energy Manufacturing Revolving Loan Fund (CERLF) in 2009 to provide up to $1 million of... (learn more)
Local Defense Production Zones allow towns, cities, and counties the authority to establish, design, and administer a unique defense zone ordinance to attract defense-related businesses. Incentives for companies include reduced permit fees, reduced gross receipts tax, and permit process reform and can last up to 20 years—a major competitive advantage for companies looking to expand in a state. Localities could use defense zones to provide incentives to CFRP composite manufacturers.   Nearly 10 percent of CFRP composite revenues come from defense. Key defense assets, such as the F-22 and F-35... (learn more)
In some states, adding significant improvements to the farm, such as an anaerobic digester and associated equipment, would significantly increase the value of the farm and the property tax liability of the farmers. By establishing a property tax exemption for the value added to property by waste-to-energy systems, states could remove a barrier preventing adoption of the technology on local farms.   Some states have a similar property tax abatement for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. The abatement excludes a portion of the value of a residential PV system from property... (learn more)
A carbon offset is a reduction in the emission of a greenhouse gas. Reductions are accomplished by capturing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere or reducing the emissions from a source. An offset is meant to compensate for an emission happening somewhere else. A carbon offset is a tradable commodity. For example, carbon offset producers can sell offsets to companies wishing to reduce their carbon footprint.   Biogas projects qualify as carbon offsets because they reduce methane gas emissions. Carbon offsets can improve a project’s financial viability and create significant revenue... (learn more)
A main barrier to growth in the biogas sector is the reluctance of farmers to undertake biogas projects. Farmers cite difficulties obtaining favorable financing, as well as the complicated and time-consuming process of project development—filing for federal and state incentives, arranging interconnection agreements, obtaining permits, and other required paperwork. Third-party ownership models alleviate this burden on farmers by allowing an investor or project developer to finance, own, and operate a biogas project on a farm. The farmer buys electricity generated on the farm from the third-party at less-than-retail rates and... (learn more)
Abundant biogas resources provide an opportunity for states to increase energy independence, decrease fuel expenditures, and create good-paying jobs by retooling public fleet vehicles. Local and state governments could use alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) powered by biogas to enhance energy security, decrease fuel costs, and stimulate demand for locally-sourced fuels. Despite these benefits, barriers such as limited experience with AFVs, inaccurate cost and benefit predictions, limited budget authority, and limited access to financing and incentives prevent governments from retooling their fleets to use alternative fuels. To overcome these barriers, state... (learn more)
Misinformation and lack of understanding about the costs and benefits of anaerobic digestion and biogas hinder market growth in many states. The industry requires strong leadership to bring stakeholders together, provide critical information about costs, and facilitate large-scale deployment throughout a state. Creating a state-based biogas working group would help cultivate strong leadership, educate policymakers, foster strategic public-private relationships, and identify opportunities for growth. State policymakers could look to Wisconsin for an example of an effective biogas working group. The Wisconsin Biogas Development Group—a public-private partnership through the Wisconsin Department of... (learn more)
To keep university innovations and startups local, states could establish a tax exemption for investments in targeted early-stage companies. This would incentivize venture capital from accredited investors and equity crowdfunders. One way to achieve this would be to offer a capital gains tax exemption for investments in qualified start-up companies. The exemption could require a three-year minimum investment to be eligible, and could extend for up to ten years. Having patient capital gives companies more certainty and helps avoid the “valleys of death” during technology development and commercialization. Knowing that... (learn more)
Over the past four years, twenty-six states and the District of Columbia have enacted intrastate securities exemptions that allow equity crowdfunding from non-accredited investors.These exemptions align with updates to the federal exemption for equity crowdfunding under Title III of the JOBS Act. Establishing this exemption would open up a new pool of investors within states that could invest in local startups. Intrastate exemption rules allow states to set limits on equity offerings from companies and maximum investments by non-accredited investors. These limits often exceed federal rules, giving states the ability to... (learn more)
States lacking venture capital investment in new companies could create an Equity Crowdfunding Hub. Online equity crowdfunding hubs allow entrepreneurs to advertise their business ideas and gather small investments from many investors. By creating a single location for investors across the world to find new businesses, equity crowdfunding hubs can dramatically improve access to capital. Several states and universities have set up crowdfunding hubs, including Wisconsin’s CraftFund where Wisconsin investors can browse specialized companies seeking investors, and Penn State’s Crowdfunding. States could allocate funds to the office of economic development to coordinate a... (learn more)
States that lack support for companies entering the commercialization stage can create a matching fund for businesses that are awarded funding by the federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs. This support could be coupled with increased commercialization planning assistance. The fund could be targeted at federal award grantees that align with advanced energy technologies. Kentucky has an exemplar matching grant program: awards are given to companies either already located in Kentucky or willing to move at least 51 percent of the company to Kentucky within ninety... (learn more)
Encouraging investments in university-level research is essential for states to promote innovation ecosystems, remain economically competitive, and spur job creation. One way states can stimulate investment in university research is by creating a university R&D tax credit. Arizona’s  tax credit incentivizes businesses to invest in local R&D activities through a nonrefundable income tax credit. From 2011 to 2017, the R&D tax credit is equivalent to 24 percent of the first $2.5 million of investments plus 15 percent of additional investments over $2.5 million. After 2018, the tax credit rates will drop... (learn more)
Many states have numerous foundations that could be enlisted to help create a robust innovation ecosystem and expand access to capital. Every year, foundations award billions of dollars in grants, ranging from youth development to emerging energy technologies. In Michigan, the Governor has a Foundation Liaison, a cabinet-level, non-partisan position. The Foundation Liaison works with the governor, state legislators, federal officials, the business community, and foundations to build funding partnerships and strategic collaborations. Since 2003, the foundation community has invested more than $150 million through partnerships brokered by the Foundation... (learn more)
States can foster innovation partnerships to increase investment in advanced energy sectors. For example, Ohio’s Federal Research Network has strengthened the coordination among local research institutions to attract research and development funding. Other states could adapt this model to help spur the innovation ecosystem.Recognizing the importance of coordination within and across sectors, the state of Ohio funded the Ohio Federal Research Network in July 2015. Wright State Applied Research Corporation will receive $20 million over the course of two years and Ohio State University will receive $5 million to establish collaboration... (learn more)
To support entrepreneurial enterprises and grow startups, states can create innovation districts. Innovation districts are geographic areas where anchor institutions and companies cluster, connecting with startups, business incubators, and accelerators. The districts are compact, transit-accessible, and technically wired. These live-work-play districts offer mixed-use housing, office, and retail. Examples of successful innovation districts can be found in Chattanooga and St. Louis; both cities created collaborative advisory boards. Key to their success was a group of leaders from universities, businesses, and government coordinating a centralized plan for growth. Chattanooga, the first mid-sized city to form... (learn more)
U.S. firms generate 7.6 billion tons of non-hazardous solid waste each year. The traditional subtractive manufacturing process can waste up to 90 percent of the original material. Solid waste is costly to dispose of and recycle; state agencies spend upwards of tens of millions of dollars annually on industrial material disposal and recycling. To decrease costly waste, states could provide incentives for the use of waste-minimizing technologies or mandate a waste reduction target for the manufacturing sector. States could create a tax incentive for waste-reducing machinery modeled on policies such as... (learn more)
Maintaining state manufacturing industries into the coming decades will require adapting economic policy to support emerging technologies such as 3D printing. In order to adapt to new manufacturing technologies, states will need a state body or council to advise on rapidly-changing policy needs. Some states lack a central body that can unite statewide additive manufacturers, recommend business-friendly policies on behalf of the changing manufacturing landscape, and help the state remain competitive in national and global additive manufacturing markets. States could create a Manufacturing Technology Council to unite statewide manufacturers and advise... (learn more)
More than 17.4 million U.S. vehicles are flex fuel-ready. States can meet the demand of this growing fleet by installing flex fuel pumps at gas stations. Flex fuels are gasoline-ethanol blends with up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Gas stations must be specially retooled to provide this option for customers. The high overhead costs associated with installing flex fuel infrastructure create a significant barrier to growth. To help overcome this barrier, state policymakers could establish a tax credit for retailers with flex fuel pumps. Biofuel retailer tax credits have proven successful... (learn more)
Misinformation and lack of understanding about the costs and benefits of biofuels hinder market growth in many states. The industry requires strong leadership to bring stakeholders together, provide critical information about costs, and facilitate large-scale deployment throughout a state. Creating a state-based biofuel association would help cultivate strong leadership, educate policymakers, foster strategic public-private relationships, and identify opportunities for growth. State policymakers could look to Iowa and Nebraska for examples of effective biofuel state associations. The Iowa Renewable Fuels Association (IRFA) has successfully overcome the information barrier in Iowa. IRFA’s mission... (learn more)
Small businesses often lack the tools and resources needed to commercialize innovative products in early stages of development. For small business owners, the inability to access new technologies could prevent them from advancing their business. Moreover, while some small businesses have considered 3D printing, the majority of small- and medium-sized business owners have yet to fully incorporate 3D printing into their supply chain. Some states have encouraged 3D printing adoption by creating an innovation voucher program or establishing grant funds that small businesses can use to pay for equipment and... (learn more)
A hackathon is traditionally an event in which computer programmers, graphic designers and project managers collaborate on software projects that last anywhere from a day to a week. Hackathons now extend beyond solving software issues and are used by institutions to solve social, environmental, and technical issues.States could capitalize on a strong innovation ecosystem—or research and business start-up environment—by instituting an annual advanced energy competition and Hackathon to ignite the in-state markets for advanced energy technology.Governments, businesses, and institutions have used hackathons and competitions to creatively engage citizens to stimulate the... (learn more)
States can utilize Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) missions to attract major international companies. By targeting manufacturers on overseas FDI missions, the Governor, mayors, and business leaders can strengthen the economy and continue to bring jobs to the state.For example, Virginia’s 2013 Going Global campaign sends defense contractors overseas to pitch their knowledge and expertise to potential customers. This campaign has resulted in new contracts and partnerships in countries such as Australia and Brazil, ultimately connecting international firms with opportunities to export their skills into the state.States can attract FDI by... (learn more)
Energy efficiency improvements are extremely cost-effective for home and business owners, but the upfront costs often act as a barrier to energy and financial savings. In order to address the resulting energy efficiency gap, some states have embraced innovative financing models to offer low-interest loans for home and business energy improvements. Only a small amount of seed capital is required to launch an energy efficiency loans program that will save homeowners money and give positive returns on investment to the state.The Warehouse for Energy Efficiency Loans (WHEEL) is an independent... (learn more)
A crucial piece of a state’s innovation ecosystem is its venture capital climate. When a state or region lacks venture capital investment, states can establish a fund of funds to attract more funding to the state. A fund of funds invests in venture capital funds rather than directly in companies, and can leverage its investments with outside funding to channel more investment into state or regional startups. States or regions can develop this fund through a partnership between nonprofits, business leaders, and the public sector. States could look to Michigan for... (learn more)
With the pace of innovation moving faster than ever before, slow-moving technology transfer offices can drive away promising researchers, and hinder the ability of campus researchers to bring their ideas to the marketplace. Many universities are revamping their technology transfer offices in order to help technologies developed in-state commercialize as rapidly as possible. To encourage this transition, policymakers could challenge all universities within the state to streamline their technology transfer offices. Providing standardized licensing agreements would allow inventors to bring new technologies to the market as quickly as possible, which... (learn more)
Encouraging investments in early-stage technology startups is essential for states to stay competitive and spur job creation. Many states use a variety of policy tools with this aim in mind, but a policy that has seen significant success is a Technology Investment Tax Credit. A properly designed incentive tax credit can influence investment decisions and boost demand for investments in early-stage technology companies.In 1996, Ohio pioneered a Technology Investment Tax Credit, a temporary tax credit with a $30 million cap. The program was so popular that  venture capitalists are now... (learn more)
University business incubators are an important resource for entrepreneurs and researchers. Business incubator programs often provide a variety of resources, guidance, and robust networking opportunities that are critical to launching innovative startups. GeorgiaTech has a particularly strong business incubator program. The university is home to the Advanced Technology Development Center—the oldest incubator in the United States—and VentureLab, which launched in 2001 and serves only university faculty, staff, and students. In Texas, Rice University’s Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has a strong positive economic impact on the state. Since its inception... (learn more)
Stackable credentials are an organized sequence of certificates that can be accumulated over time to strengthen individual qualifications and to advance along a career pathway or up a career ladder to different and higher-paying jobs. This sequence has shorter-term skill development blocks which allow students to exit and enter while still having gained marketable skills, which reduces educational and employment barriers for non-traditional and disadvantaged students. These certificates should also be portable, or independently verified and accredited, so student credentials are upheld by employers and educational institutions across the nation... (learn more)
A large hurdle in matching residents with jobs in advanced energy is a lack of prior experience and skills. This problem could be solved by creating more apprenticeships and certification programs that are tailored to the needs of companies within each region. State leaders could achieve this by leveraging the state’s technical college system and private-sector partnerships.South Carolina’s Apprenticeship Carolina™ system offers a simple model for improving apprenticeship opportunities statewide. The state’s successful Apprenticeship Carolina™ system offers employers a modest $1,000 state tax credit per apprentice per year. Additionally, the... (learn more)
By 2020, two out of three American jobs will require a college credential, many of them in STEM fields. To meet the demand for skilled labor, America will need the majority of high school students to graduate on time, enter college, and earn an associate's degree within three years or a bachelor's degree within six years. Unfortunately, only one in five students meet that goal today.Early colleges are an innovative way to engage students in the classroom and better prepare them for the jobs of the 21st century. Through partnerships... (learn more)
In 2014, the U.S. veteran population was at 21.8 million. Nationally, 42 percent of former military personnel engaged in medium-skill maintenance, machinery, and electrical technician work during their service. Despite the demand for skilled workers in many states and the strong qualifications of many returning veterans—including technical skills, organizational abilities, and professional maturity—the unemployment rate for veterans was at 9.7% in 2012. In 2013, 35 percent of unemployed veterans were between the age of 25 to 44, an ideal working age. This presents the nation with a significant opportunity to... (learn more)
An integrated resource plan, or IRP, is how utilities assure regulators that they can meet forecasted peak energy demand. This includes a reserve margin and a combination of supply-side and demand-side resources. Traditionally, IRP processes are focused on providing reliable energy at the lowest price to consumers. This inherently gives traditional fuel sources an advantage because many renewable and advanced energy technologies are not yet at grid parity. However, there are some adjustments to this process that help level the playing field:Full Life-Cycle Least Cost AccountingDifferent types of energy producing technology are... (learn more)
Permitting processes are often costly and inconsistent for advanced energy technologies, such as solar, wind, and energy storage. They often require multiple permits from a variety of state and local departments, and create an unnecessary drag on economic growth. States should consider streamlining the permitting process to remove uncertainty around project timeline and costs and accelerate the development of renewable energy projects. In the solar industry, for example, a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Labs concluded that streamlining the permitting process could potentially reduce the price of a residential solar... (learn more)
In a traditional utility regulatory structure, utilities earn more money when they sell more energy to their ratepayers. However, this creates an economically inefficient market: the supplier (the utility) has a direct incentive to oversell the demand side (ratepayer), such that there is no incentive for utilities to provide energy at the lowest cost possible. Decoupling is a regulatory tool that addresses this conflict by severing the tie between increased energy sales and revenues.Under decoupling, regulators set a target revenue level for utilities and electricity rates automatically adjust if sales... (learn more)