Business leaders meet in Northwest Arkansas to highlight leadership in energy efficiency, industry growth and job creation
Fayetteville, Arkansas – July 19, 2012 – On the heels of a new survey showing nearly nine out of 10 Arkansans believe advanced energy solutions benefit the state and national economy, business leaders from the advanced energy sector in Northwest Arkansas today held a series of meetings to discuss the job impact of these products and services to the regional economy.
The Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) and its national partner, Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), convened today’s industry roundtable of Northwest Arkansas advanced energy business leaders, which discussed the importance of advanced energy to job growth. The roundtable was held at Northwest Arkansas Community College (NWACC) in Bentonville, home to one of the nations’ leading weatherization training centers where hundreds of Arkansans have upgraded their energy efficiency and renewable energy job skills. Companies and institutions participating included Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp., Geavista Group, NextGen Illumination, Schneider Electric, Silicon Solar Solutions and Pulaski Technical College.
“Northwest Arkansas is a key driver of our state’s economic engine and is home to many dynamic and growing advanced energy economy businesses,” said Steve Patterson, Executive Director of Arkansas Advanced Energy Association. “We are excited to bring together a number of our advanced energy business leaders today to talk with a unified voice about the unique role that advanced energy is playing in our state and nation’s energy future. Advanced energy firms are delivering economic value today and have even greater potential to strengthen rural communities and create more jobs tomorrow.”
Arkansas’s favorable policy climate has helped generate economic activity in the state’s energy efficiency sector, with many companies expanding their workforce by as much as 25%. Arkansas is the only state in the Southeast to have an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS), which requires electric and natural gas utilities to reach certain targets in energy conservation. Established in 2010, the Arkansas EERS has led to expansion of utility efficiency programs, which save money for businesses and residents that make energy-saving improvements in their homes and properties. That, in turn, has created business opportunities for energy efficiency companies and job opportunities in weatherization and installation of energy saving equipment.
Today, Arkansas has more than 100 businesses with operations tied to advanced energy, employing more than 10,000 Arkansans. Northwest Arkansas and the Ft. Smith area are home to approximately 30 advanced energy companies on the cutting edge of advanced energy innovations, including LGW, Inc. with battery storage technology and Silicon Solar Solutions with solar photovoltaic manufacturing technologies to reduce production costs. In Ft. Smith, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corp. is providing expertise and infrastructure for compressed natural gas vehicles. And NextGen Illumination, based in Fayetteville, helped Lincoln poultry grower Gene Pharr save $5,000 a year on his electricity bills by installing efficient LED lights that the company manufactures in Arkansas.
With global energy consumption projected to rise nearly 40 percent by 2030, future prosperity depends on new ways to meet the world’s energy needs. Advanced energy - technologies, products, and services that make energy more secure, clean, and affordable - presents an economic opportunity for American companies and workers.
"Advanced energy is thriving in Northwest Arkansas, so much so that we transitioned our advanced LED light manufacturing from Asia to Fayetteville earlier this year," said Jerry McCormick with Next Gen Illumination. "The advanced energy industry is already creating jobs and benefiting Arkansan businesses, and there is lots of room for growth. Our success with helping poultry growers like Gene Pharr save money and improve productivity is just one example of how advanced energy technologies can help Arkansas’s companies succeed."
Building on these early successes, Arkansas businesses are well positioned to further develop a vibrant local advanced energy industry. Arkansas’ favorable business climate, ranked number one in the country for cost of doing business in a recent CNBC study, is an important asset, as are the state’s transportation infrastructure, supportive state policies and abundant natural resources, including biomass and geothermal.
“Advanced energy represents a tremendous economic opportunity for Northwest Arkansas and the rest of the state,” said Graham Richard, CEO of AEE. “The economic value that is being created in the advanced energy sector is helping us reach our mission of a nation and world that runs on secure, clean and affordable energy. The people of this state get that and see the value of advanced energy in creating jobs and economic value in improving all of our lives.”
Specifically, the survey found that 88 percent of Arkansans think it’s important to the state economy to manufacture advanced energy products like batteries for power storage, high-efficiency motors and equipment, and wind turbine components. In fact, by a more than three-to-one margin (61 percent to 17 percent), Arkansans believe Congress should continue to promote wind energy by extending existing tax credits for wind energy.
The survey comes as new technologies create opportunities for the United States to both produce more of its energy domestically and also provide advanced energy solutions globally. And it comes as Americans remain concerned about energy issues. The majority of those surveyed believe that a gallon of gasoline will cost $5 or more within five years and one in 5 Arkansans believe that United States’ current dependence on foreign oil is a “crisis,” while three in five call it a “major problem.”
But Arkansans see advanced energy as part of the solution. Fifty-seven percent said that efforts to make greater use of energy-saving technologies like high-efficiency lighting, appliances, and insulation mostly create American jobs. And 85 percent said it is important for the state’s political leaders to do more to further advanced energy in Arkansas.
Additional results from the survey include:
More than four in five Arkansans (81.6 percent) view the United States’ current dependence on foreign oil as a crisis or a major problem.
Thinking about how electricity is made and delivered in the U.S. including its cost, reliability, safety, public health impact, and environmental impact, over half (55.5%) of Arkansans say the U.S. in a state of crisis or has major problems.
Nearly half (45%) of Arkansans are willing to pay an additional $2 per month or more on their utility bill in order to increase renewable energy in Arkansas. Over one quarter are willing to pay between $2 and $5 more per month, while another 17% would pay up to $10 more per month, and 3% more than $10; 35.3% support an increase of less than two dollars, while 19% are undecided.
The online survey of 514 Arkansas adults was conducted by JZ Analytics for Advanced Energy Economy, Arkansas Advanced Energy Association, and their charitable affiliates June 19-21, 2012. It has a margin of error of +/- 4.4 percentage points. Full survey results are available here.
In recent weeks, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) unveiled state policy recommendations that AAEA hopes to serve as a resource for a comprehensive state energy plan. AAEA’s policy recommendations are the result of a year-long, highly collaborative process and consensus from more than advanced energy company leaders from across the state.
“Our business and energy leaders don’t oppose any form of energy,” Patterson said. “Looking ahead, they recognize that it will take a diversity of resources to meet increased energy demand and Arkansas has an opportunity to profit. Their recommendations represent a consensus on policy measures that should encourage private investment and expansion in the alternative fuels, energy efficiency and renewable energy sectors.”
The AAEA Board of Directors has approved the guiding principles for a state energy plan based on the AAEA’s commitment to growing Arkansas’s economy by expanding our energy workforce and manufacturing base through the increased development, manufacture, and utilization of advanced energy technologies. The policy recommendations include specific items related to alternative fuels, energy efficiency, and clean and renewable energy. More on these policy recommendations can be accessed here.
About the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association
Founded last year, the Arkansas Advanced Energy Association (AAEA) is dedicated to growing Arkansas's economy by expanding the energy workforce and manufacturing base through the increased development, manufacture, and utilization of advanced energy technologies. AAEA includes a unique blend of manufacturers, entrepreneurs, small business owners, educators, researchers, consultants and public officials whose common interest and expertise focuses on advanced energy development and economic expansion in Arkansas.
About Advanced Energy Economy
Advanced Energy Economy is a national organization representing the entire advanced energy industry. AEE's mission is to influence public policy, foster advanced energy innovation and business growth, and provide a unified voice for a strong U.S. advanced energy industry that will drive the global transition to a smarter energy future.
Cortney Piper for AAEA
Bob Keough for AEE