Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes and Politics returned on Thursday, June 23, to discuss the future of clean energy in Michigan. MICHauto’s Glenn Stevens Jr. was featured as a panelist, alongside Walker Miller Energy Services’ Carla Walker-Miller, Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s Liesl Clark, and DTE Energy’s Jerry Norcia, with Ignition Media Group’s Dennis W. Archer Jr. as the moderator.
The conversation began with an acknowledgment of the 2022 Mackinac Policy Conference conversations on Michigan’s competitiveness to attract and retain companies in the state and how Michigan’s affordable energy access could be used as an enticement. In his answer, Stevens specifically mentioned comments made by Sandy Pierce of Huntington Bank during the Make Michigan More Competitive panel on Michigan’s lack of accessible and affordable energy for companies.
“Sandy Pierce dropped the mic in the competitiveness panel on why Ohio won this Intel deal for the $20 billion plant they’re building. She laid out the factors and said energy is one of them,” said Stevens. “But I will say that I think we’re hard on ourselves sometimes. While we’ve had some losses, we’ve also had some big wins too. But we got to set our sights on what’s that package of competitiveness for the future.”
Later in the conversation, Stevens was asked about the current opportunities for companies to become or move up a tier level as automotive suppliers. He believes the future is the new net-zero energy economy due to the automotive industry’s growing openness to it and the amount of inclusivity that already exists and will continue to expand within this industry sector.
“This new net-zero energy economy…has more opportunity for new entrepreneurs, for inclusivity, that our state’s had since the early 1920s,” Stevens said. “The [energy] grid, the energy distribution, the design engineering and manufacturing, the services, and recycling of the vehicles [are a part of] a very big ecosystem that exists around new energy and electric vehicles that we didn’t have before. So, I would argue that the greatest opportunity for inclusivity in participation with Michiganders than we’ve seen in a long, long time.”
In a panel audience question, the panel was asked about their thoughts on preparing K-12 students for this clean energy industry future. Stevens mentioned that future, as well as current, workers are looking to work for companies who solve global problems, not contribute to them. Further, Stevens suggests engaging with young Michiganders first before relying on importing out-of-state talent.
“The theme, without a doubt, is kids—all people, really—want to work in industries and companies that want to solve global issues and not contribute to them,” said Stevens. “I would also submit to the greatest concentration of people to work in our industry are the ones who are growing up here. Yes, we need to attract people [outside the state], but we need to cultivate our own [Michiganders] and get them connected with solving global issues in this net-zero economy across all different types of industries.”
When later asked by another audience member about how businesses should “pivot” from the reliability of single-source companies, Stevens applauded companies like General Motors and Telsa that are looking at their eco-system process differently.
“When GM looks at, say electrification, they look at the whole eco-system. And the magic of Telsa is…not the vehicle itself. It’s the ecosystem that they’ve built around it,” said Stevens. “And all of the OEMs are looking at it the same way. I credit the companies across the ecosystem for looking at this differently.”
In one of the last questions, the panel was asked what one thing they could change from a federal policy perspective. After sharing his belief of people “nickel-and-diming” the energy policy issues in Washington, Stevens shared his worries about being “lapped” by the rest of the world.
“We’re arguing [in Washington] if we can extend the credits to over 200,000 vehicles. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is lapping us, whether it’s Asia, the UK, or the EU,” said Stevens. “…we need to get a national energy security policy and program in place that’s meaningful and at least keeps pace with the rest of the world, or…I don’t really want to think about the alternative.”