With global energy consumption poised to increase by 50 percent over the next 25 years, Mississippi can play a role in supplying that energy and manufacturing related products. The Mississippi Energy Institute, a non-profit, privately funded organization, is providing leadership to capitalize on these opportunities.
The organization’s president, Patrick Sullivan, says the group’s core mission is developing a state energy policy. “We see ourselves as the compass of energy policy and strategies,” he said. “Secondly, as a privately funded entity, we assist the state in attracting energy industries.”
The group began in 2009 under the Mississippi Economic Council’s Momentum Mississippi and has been a standalone entity since 2010.
Energy is considered the lifeblood of the state’s economy with every part of the economy relying on energy in some way. “So often energy is such a major component of attracting industry,” Sullivan said.
“We try to look at things we consider realistic. A lot are incredibly capital intensive and long term; nuclear energy is an example.”
The Mississippi Energy Institute asks questions about which industries the state should pursue and keeps abreast of new forms of energy. “We place a strong emphasis on what we consider energy technology,” Sullivan said, “and have to think about ways to grow that. We have the infrastructure in place, but we need to push students into technology because these are high-paying jobs.”
The lack of a trained workforce is the biggest issue in energy as in all sectors, he points out. “We’re talking to companies and see a lack of technically trained workers, but we can quickly meet that demand. We need to educate junior high and high school students on the career opportunities in energy,” he said.
“Hopefully the demand in Mississippi will be extremely high. The average wage is three times the wage of other jobs in the private sector.”
Sullivan sees that Mississippi can make the biggest impact in the energy sector with manufacturing energy-related items, such as utility poles and electric transformers. “Mississippi and the South have an advantage because we have lower energy costs so that helps us more with manufacturing. We have more natural gas flowing through our state than any other state,” he said. “With emerging nations such as China and India using more energy, global growth is almost incomprehensible.”
In addition to the more traditional energy sources of oil, natural gas and nuclear, other forms including wind, hydro, biomass and solar will be needed to meet this scale of demand while continuing to find ways to be more energy efficient in buildings, transportation and manufacturing.
“In preparing for this growth in energy production and to participate in new technology development, Mississippi has a major economic opportunity,” Sullivan said. “Opportunities are in energy production, research, technology development, components manufacturing, transportation and distribution, storage and extraction, and with each of these comes jobs and investment.”
Currently – from an employment standpoint – the vast majority of energy jobs in the state are in electricity, natural gas and oil production with additional jobs in service and manufacturing related to energy.
Asked if he’s optimistic about the state’s future growth in energy, Sullivan responded, “Absolutely.
“We have business leaders thinking progressively and looking at where we need to put our emphasis. We also partner with Mississippi’s government leaders, academic institutions and economic development communities to develop growth-minded policies to maximize energy based economic development in Mississippi.”
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