by Paula C. Squires
Nearly 200 people gathered Thursday in Richmond for the launch of AEE Virginia, a group that wants to make Virginia a leader in advanced energy technologies. “Most people think energy will be a big growth sector of the economy. We think it’s important to get Virginia on board … We don’t want Virginia to get left behind,” David Dusseau said during a meeting at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Dusseau is the founder and president of Allies in Energy, a private company based in Charlottesville that provides staffing and market research to the clean energy sector.
Other members of the group’s organizational steering committee members also were on hand, including Robert Skunda, CEO of the Virginia BioTelchnology Research Park in Richmond and a member of the board of directors of the Dominion Resources Greentech Incubator. In an interview before the meeting, Skunda said that the development of alternative energy in Virginia is “still spotty,” due primarily to a lack of capital. “It takes time to build reputation and critical mass,” he said. AEE has the potential, he added “to bring a community of interest together on a sustained basis.”
Dusseau said next steps include getting the group established as a nonprofit and providing a nonpartisan environment where all stakeholders in Virginia’s energy industry could come to collaborate.
The group also plans to pursue an affiliation with the national AEE organization. Founded in 2011 in Washington, D.C., Advanced Energy Economy (AEE) is a business organization representing the advanced energy industry. In Virginia and nationally, technologies falling under that umbrella include biomass, offshore wind, nuclear, energy efficiency, smart grid and solar power.
Dusseau said Virginia is particularly equipped to move forward in biomass and nuclear, because of its longstanding agriculture industry and the small-scale nuclear work already being done in Lynchburg.
Yesterday’s meeting drew a diverse roster of attendees from law firms, higher education, energy companies, and local, state and federal governments. Jerry Stone of Natural Resource Group flew in from North Carolina. “We want to buy companies,” he said, “but they have to be revenue producing,” and that can be hard to find in the energy sector, he added.
David Stets of Richmond BySolar, a company that designs and installs solar panels, came because he wanted to hear about any new opportunities.
AEE’s start up and yesterday’s meeting was largely funded by the Energy Foundation, Dusseau said. That San Francisco group is funded by a partnership of major donors that awards grants to groups in the U.S. and China that are assisting in the transition to a sustainable energy future. Dusseau said AEE Virginia plans to get future funding from grants and sponsorships. “We will not be a membership group.”
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