It is not surprising that Massachusetts has a large collection of clean energy companies. After all, the state is home to major research universities with focuses on energy, it has an active venture capital community, and many early cutting-edge energy technologies were developed in the state. At of 2014, the clean energy industry, broadly defined, had over 88,000 employees working in nearly 6,000 companies.

Along with Massachusetts’ universities and venture capital infrastructure, a main reason for the emergence of such a large clean energy industry cluster is the active role of state government, especially the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). That agency has pursued a broadranging, multi-faceted, integrated approach to building the industry.

To help start-ups get off the ground, MassCEC has helped entrepreneurs, researchers, and investors to forge connections. It has provided funding and leadership for an annual week of events that includes sessions on industry trends, information about financing for companies, and opportunities for earlystage companies to pitch their business plans to potential investors.

The AmplifyMass program offers matching funding to companies and research teams that receive awards from ARPA-E (the Advanced Research Projects Agency—Energy), which is the part of the U.S. Department of Energy charged with supporting early-stage energy technology innovations with breakthrough potential. Without support from MassCEC, many ARPA-E awardees would have difficulty raising the necessary matching funding.

Through the InnovateMass program, early-stage companies can compete for awards of up to $150,000 to bring innovative technologies closer to commercialization. MassCEC has also provided support to business incubators.

One of MassCEC’s most creative and impactful programs is the Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship program. Since 2011, it has placed 1,194 paid interns in 262 companies. This strategy not only strengthens the workforce by providing young people with useful skills and work experience, but it helps the clean energy businesses in the state find qualified employees. Because MassCEC pays some or all of the interns’ salary, small companies are able to get work assistance they would otherwise not be able to afford. More than 50 interns have gained permanent positions at their host com-panies, while many more are now working elsewhere in the Massachusetts clean energy industry.

The business community recognizes the importance of MassCEC’s many programs in growing the clean energy industry. Peter Rothstein, president of the region’s most influential industry trade group, the New England Clean Energy Council, notes that, “MassCEC programs have supported this growth with initiatives focused on R&D and startups, as well as creative and effective programs that have accelerated demand and market growth, all contributing to Massachusetts’ leadership in energy efficiency, solar, and innovation.”

Each year, MassCEC publishes a clean energy industry report that counts the number of companies and jobs; classifies them by type and technology; and points out trends. Not only does this analysis enable MassCEC to see if it is making progress, but it provides the business community and investors with valuable information about the shape and size of the clean energy industry cluster. In the most recent report, MassCEC was pleased to point out that the state’s businesses expected to exceed 100,000 workers in 2015.

***

This blog post was originally published in the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)’s 2015 report Clean Energy Champions: The Importance of State Policies and Programs. This report provides the first-ever comprehensive look at the ways states are advancing clean energy and suggests how to further encourage clean energy growth.

This blog post was also published on Renewable Energy World.

SEE ALSO:

Infographic: Putting Massachusetts to Work - The Growing Clean Energy Sector, by the Clean Energy States Alliance (2015)

2014 Massachusetts Clean Energy Indsutry Report, by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (2014)

State Leadership in Clean Energy Awards: Outstanding Programs Found Here, by the Clean Energy States Alliance (2014)