Mississippi Energy Policy Institute Formed


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Gov. Haley Barbour has announced the formation of a group dedicated to coming up with energy policy for the state. The group, the Mississippi Energy Policy Institute, will be part of Momentum Mississippi, "a statewide, public, private partnership dedicated to the development of economic and employment opportunities" in the state, according to its Web site.

The new institute will "promote policies supporting long-term economic growth for the state through reliable and affordable energy," according to a release from the governor's office, and "will promote a long-term coherent strategy for developing energy resources in the State of Mississippi."

John Palmer, formerly of local telecommunications company SkyTel and former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, will temporarily head the institute. Others involved will include representatives from Mississippi Power Co. and Chevron, according to Forbes.

"I believe energy is one of the most important and powerful public policy issues that this country will deal with in the coming decade," Barbour told Forbes. "It is hugely important issue for Mississippi."

The Forbes piece went on to say that Mississippi has "more than 40 biomass-related renewable energy projects," and the Grand Gulf nuclear reactor, which employs more than 700 people.

Barbour pointed to Mississippi Power's planned $2.2 billion power plant in Kemper County and Chevron's $800 million in upgrades to its Pascagoula facility as examples of the state's potential to become a leading power producer.

"We're beginning to have more jobs in Mississippi that are part of energy intensive operations in manufacturing," Barbour said. "We have had over $20 billion of energy projects in some stage of preparation in Mississippi during my time as governor."

"We want companies to see Mississippi not only as a place with an outstanding workforce but as a location with affordable and reliable energy to grow a business," Barbour said in a release. "The Energy Policy Institute also will provide a platform for our research universities to excel in this area of study."

Since 2007, Mississippi has attracted more than $30 million in clean energy venture capital, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts study released yesterday, making it a "small but fast-growing piece of America's clean energy economy. The industry employs 3,200 people in 454 businesses including SmartSynch in Jackson, which designs and manufactures wireless energy metering technology.

"The clean energy economy is poised for explosive growth," said Lori Grange, interim deputy director of the Pew Center on the States in a statement. "These jobs are driving economic growth and environmental sustainability at a time when America needs both. There is a potential competitive advantage for federal and state policy leaders who act now to spur jobs, businesses and investments in the clean energy sector.


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