Meet Melissa Winne, E2Tech’s Executive Director. As the public face of the organization, she serves as a champion of the Maine energy, environmental, and clean technology cluster. She manages a large membership network, promotes the cleantech sector’s impact on Maine’s economy, and produces several informative forums on energy and environmental issues. Melissa is a native of Upstate New York and a graduate of Union College where she earned a degree in environmental policy.
For folks who don’t know, can you share a bit about E2Tech as an organization and its mission?
The Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine (E2Tech) is the State’s leading energy, environmental, and clean technology business and economic development organization, acting as a catalyst, a change agent, and a resource center. E2Tech strives to promote companies, support their robust and sustainable acceleration, and help those companies compete in national and international markets. We facilitate networking, serve as a clearinghouse for information, and lead efforts to promote the sector through business and economic development and sustainable job growth. In our efforts to provide both information and the venue for making valuable connections, we hold monthly forums and networking events on key energy and environmental topics.
How does E2Tech overlap with other economic development agencies?
E2Tech originally grew out of efforts stemming from the Maine State Chamber about 16 years ago to help support the growth of the environmental, energy, and clean technology sectors. We continue to work alongside a variety of economic development agencies, including the Maine State Chamber, Maine Technology Institute, SCORE, MITC, ACTION Innovation Network, Maine Center for Entrepreneurs, Navigate, CEI, Cleantech Open, among others. Maine has such a depth of resources for startups and business growth, and E2Tech is proud to exist in this supportive ecosystem. Primarily, we act as a connector, providing the platform through our events and networking receptions for connections to happen organically, including business connections with customers, business partners, resources, and information. Additionally, we work to inform companies both in the state, and looking to expand their business to Maine, of the resources that already exist here to help support and promote their success.
Can you describe the positive economic impact that cleantech has had for Maine over the last five years?
The 2017 U.S. Clean Tech Leadership Index – a data-based comparison of all 50 states among 80 technology, capital, and policy indicators – finds that Maine improved its overall ranking from 18th to 16th since 2016, and surged ahead 13 places since 2014. In particular, the Technology category which tracks the progress of states’ deployment across three categories – clean electricity, clean transportation, and energy intelligence and green buildings – has improved from 31st in 2010 to 9th in 2017. Of course, this kind of industry growth has great benefits for the state including job creation and positive economic impact. What is also exciting for growth in clean technology, is that the technology es developed in this sector often leads to reduction in carbon emissions and overall benefits to Maine’s environment, which positively impacts our quality of life and supports other key industries in the State such as tourism, outdoor recreation, and the seafood industry.
Where do you think Maine is a leader in policy and where is there room for improvement?
There are many experts and Legislators that are in the midst of discussions in Augusta around this exact question. Other states have experimented with a number of innovative policy initiatives to help support and grow the energy sector and move towards a clean energy economy. While it’d be easy to get into the depths of these policy details and their impact, one of the most important points I often hear from our member companies is the need for policy certainty. As with any business, it is hard to justify investment if there is extreme uncertainty around the policies, regulations and processes for that sector. If we moved towards more political certainty, especially in the energy sector, I think there’d be additional growth in investment and economic development.
In addition, in 2017 the Maine Economic Growth Council presented “Measures of Growth 2017” which tracked Maine’s performance on fundamental economic indicators and the key leverage points that move the state toward the council’s vision of high quality of life for all Maine people. One important indicator that was taken from this report was that Maine spends only about 1% of its total Gross Domestic Product on research and development (R&D), which ranks the state 37th nationally. If we are going to continue to expect growth in innovative sectors and have these sectors help lead economic development efforts, we need to invest resources into R&D at the state-level.
Can you tell us about a couple of really innovative companies you worked with?
Of course, we are proud to have Introspective Systems as part of our membership and are excited about all of the innovative grid management work that you are doing. There are so many innovative companies it is hard to highlight just a few. Ocean Renewable Power Company is leading the way in microgrid to utility-scale river and tidal energy applications, and underwater mobile power supplies for offshore energy applications. We’ve also been excited to see the growth of Pika Energy designing integrated microgrid technologies enabling any building to generate, store, and consume its own clean energy. On the software side, Rapport is working on sustainability tracking technologies with automated data collection and visualizations that help to measure, track and reduce an entity’s environmental impact. There is so much excitement and growth in these sectors in Maine, I can’t wait to see the new innovative technologies that will continue to be developed in the near future.