Energy Policy:

Business groups driving local economies through clean energy development

How are local communities successfully attracting investments in the clean energy sector? During today's OnPoint, Nicole Stika, senior director of energy services at the Council of Smaller Enterprises in Cleveland, discusses a new report produced by Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy showing local Chambers of Commerce are driving economic development around clean energy. Stika explains how these local success stories can help shape national energy policy.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Hello, and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Nicole Stika, senior director of energy services at the Council of Smaller Enterprises in Cleveland, Ohio. Nicole, thank you for coming on the show today.

Nicole Stika: Thanks for joining me.

Monica Trauzzi: Nicole, Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy has released a new report showing local Chambers of Commerce are driving economic development around clean energy. How are local communities able to so successfully garner investments in the clean energy sector?

Nicole Stika: Sure. So Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy is, you know, comprised of chambers across the entire country that are focused on economic development and job creation, and these issues around clean energy and what that actually means to their member companies. And so from a wide range of initiatives that chambers are involved with, from smart grid to energy efficiency, and at the end of the day, helping their businesses reduce costs, is really the matter at hand here in what the report delves into.

Monica Trauzzi: So you are the small business partner of the local Cleveland chapter, or the Cleveland Chamber. Talk about Cleveland's story and the success that you've seen there.

Nicole Stika: Sure. So for the last 15 years, our chamber has been focused on helping our businesses reduce their energy costs, and that started with deregulation back in 1999, that we started helping our businesses reduce their energy costs through their electric and natural gas utility bills. Over time, when legislation was introduced into the State of Ohio to help these small businesses become more energy efficient, we stepped up to the plate to ensure that small businesses would have access to education and financial resources, which is really critical. And over time, we've developed a very holistic turnkey solution to helping small businesses reduce their energy costs and reduce their demand and become more competitive, at the end of the day. So we've helped these businesses become smarter about how they're using their energy.

Monica Trauzzi: Has there been resistance, though? I mean, have you had to sort of nudge certain businesses along a bit?

Nicole Stika: Absolutely.

Monica Trauzzi: Yeah?

Nicole Stika: Absolutely. I mean, small businesses, this is not top of mind for them. It's typically not even in the top ten of their priorities. They wear many hats throughout the day. And so we have tried to get businesses to be more proactive and think differently about how they're using their energy, and what it means to their bottom line.

Monica Trauzzi: So speaking more broadly about some of the other cities that are highlighted in this report, what kind of investments have we seen them make that sort of helps drive the economy in those states?

Nicole Stika: Sure. So chambers are, you know, driving the policy agencies. They're convening their businesses to start talking about clean energy issues that affect their respective regions, from, you know the Rust Belt region to manufacturing and things that are happening on the coasts. You know, it's not the same in every part of the country. So the chambers are driving their own initiatives from transportation, reduced fuel usage, cleaner fuels, renewable energy. So each of our chambers has their own initiative that they are using that to their advantage, to spur the economic development and job creation, and also retention within their areas.

Monica Trauzzi: We often talk about competition between the U.S. and other countries on clean energy. How do you think these local efforts help keep the U.S. competitive?

Nicole Stika: Sure. So if we're helping improve the bottom line of these small businesses, it's putting the money back into their pocket that allows them to reinvest back in their local communities, making them more competitive, and enabling them with new advanced technologies that gives them the access to, you know, do more manufacturing and source their products, but to also build renewable energy type products here in the States. That's important. So, you know, energy efficiency is helping our businesses reinvest back in their businesses and their local communities.

Monica Trauzzi: There's uncertainty on policy and regulation on energy here in Washington, certainly. Does that influence at all how aggressive you're able to be on the local level?

Nicole Stika: Sure. I mean, every state is tackling their own policies and driving their own agencies, and while there is an absence of a federal policy at this time, you know, each of that is bubbling up to the surface to help these local chambers look at alternative financing mechanisms, for instance, to identify, you know, unique solutions that will help these small businesses become more competitive and get access to renewable technologies and energy efficiency.

Monica Trauzzi: And so are the local chambers trying to engage on the national level and sort of put this in front of policy makers and say, hey, it's working, let's do something nationally?

Nicole Stika: Right. And that's the purpose of Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy, is to drive that policy agenda, and to work with our local chambers to understand what are the priorities that are specific to their communities.

Monica Trauzzi: All right. We'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show, Nicole.

Nicole Stika: Thank you for having me.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]