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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Milwaukee-area companies step up green energy efforts; China ahead of U.S.

From an article by Tom Content in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Johnson Controls Inc. is expanding its advanced battery research and testing space at its Glendale headquarters, one sign of the Milwaukee area's efforts in the race for green economy jobs.

Mary Ann Wright, a key Johnson Controls advanced battery executive, said the Glendale-based firm is matching dollar-for-dollar a $299 million stimulus grant that is aimed at creating a domestic supply chain for advanced batteries, a sector dominated by firms in China and other Asian countries.

"We're not in the game relative to supplying the materials and technology in this space right now," she said Wednesday.

The stimulus funding will help not only to set up the company's lithium battery factory in Holland, Mich., but also "to help stand up an industry," she said.

"Our plan prior to this stimulus was to expand our manufacturing and technological base in Europe and China," Wright said. "As a result of the investment the U.S. government taxpayers are making, this is where we're going to build it - and then expand to our global footprint."

Her comments came as the Green Energy Summit kicked off Wednesday at the Midwest Airlines Center. Speakers at the summit said Milwaukee is positioned for an economy that's transitioning toward the clean-technology sector and greener energy choices. . . .

A new report to be released Thursday shows the challenge facing the clean-tech sector. Global clean-energy investments have risen by 300% since 2005, but for the first time last year, China took the lead in investment in clean-energy technologies, according to data released by The Pew Charitable Trusts.

"The facts speak for themselves," said Bloomberg New Energy Finance Chief Executive Michael Liebreich in a statement. "2009 clean energy investment in China totaled $34.6 billion, while in the U.S. it totaled $18.6 billion. China is now clearly the world leader in attracting new capital and making new investments in this area."

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