The energy sector has heated up in recent years as natural gas drilling technology has resulted in increased supply and the power sector has revolutionized in the face of monitoring and mobile technology that boosts the promises of smart grids. Firms are hiring, investments are going ahead at both the national and international level, and the industry is attracting attention as consumer technology advances filter into the “industrial internet.”

Recognizing its role in promoting the future of the industrial internet, the Department of Energy launched a manufacturing initiative it claims will help boost the prospects of the clean economy. The Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative is small by comparison to the controversial payouts under the stimulus in the first Obama administration, but it signals a sustained commitment by the White House to the concept of a revitalized manufacturing sector driven by cleantech.

“CEMI, which is overseen by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, will develop enhanced funding programs for clean energy innovation, a series of public-private partnerships to spur technology commercialization and new technical assistance programs to help firms bring new innovations to market,” the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation said, praising the new initiative.

“Addressing global climate change requires the creation of advanced clean energy technologies that are competitive with fossil fuels. Doing so requires a strong clean energy manufacturing sector,” ITIF Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Stepp said. “The Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative enhances this goal by spurring innovation and promoting domestic economic growth and business creation.”

Private firms are already on the cleantech bandwagon, but many are beefing up their sector expertise with high-profile new hires. Tom Solazzo has joined PwC as US Cleantech leader this week, and will build on 30 years of expertise both inside the utility industry and at tech startups.

Also in the services part of the energy business, law firm Blank Rome LLP has nabbed former Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer to head its energy, petrochemical and natural resource practice. As a large state in a complex electricity and emissions market and accustomed to navigating between the interests of coal miners, chemical companies and environmentalists, Pennsylvania has traditionally been a leader in crafting compromises that guide national policy approaches.

As the firm points out, Pennsylvania is also emerging as a giant gas producer. “Michael’s practical experience at the highest levels of strategic state and federal government policymaking and government relations will significantly enhance our capabilities, particularly regarding the Marcellus and Utica Shale Plays and, accordingly, we expect he will be spending a lot of time in western Pennsylvania,” said Alan J. Hoffman, Blank Rome co-chairman and managing partner.

Policy is a big question for the sector, and little is more important than tax policy for a sector that makes enormous, long-term investments. The American Petroleum Institute is highlighting the results of a poll of Americans by Harris Interactive on proposals to raise taxes on oil and gas companies: the results are broadly in favor of “solving fiscal problems without raising energy taxes,” the group said. More on that study here.

Finally, American firms are making real inroads abroad. High profile smart grid firm Silver Spring Networks is rolling out the initial phase of its Singapore advanced metering infrastructure, the company said. The company is working with SPPA, a member of Singapore Power Group.

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