Gov. Jennifer Granholm teamed up with Danish officials yesterday as part of a joint program to increase the number of renewable energy jobs in a state that has long relied on a troubled auto industry to power its economy.

Ariel Bond / Daily

Denmark’s Minister of Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard co-signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Granholm yesterday afternoon in the Michigan League Ballroom, pledging to share information and technology with the state to help jump-start the ailing economy with a new energy industry.

Up until the early 1970s, Denmark was almost 100 percent dependent on imported fuel. In the aftermath of the Oil Crisis of 1973, when the price of oil more than doubled because of the OAPEC embargo, officials in Denmark noticed the country’s need for alternative sources of energy.

Denmark then began major initiatives to break its dependence on oil.

The country now boasts unemployment figures of only 2.2 percent, and is spearheading a movement to help Michigan — with an unemployment rate of 10.2 percent — experience similar results.

During the summit, Granholm explained to a crowd of business leaders and experts on renewable energy that Michigan is uniquely positioned for new business in the renewable energy sector — much like Denmark in the 1970’s.

The state’s advantages, Granholm said, include a large workforce, 3,288 miles of shoreline — prime real estate for wind farms — and experience handling an emerging industry.

“The opportunities for us are enormous, and who needs it more than we do?” Granholm said. “This is all about jobs and we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Hedegaard wished Michigan the best in its efforts to bring a renewable energy sector to the state, saying, “it is crucial that we use this crisis to rethink business as usual.”

Ross School of Business graduate student Bharath Iyengar, who attended the event, said he thinks it’s beneficial for the state to have leaders committed to a renewable energy industry. But he was a bit skeptical of the partnership.

“I would like to know exactly how this collaboration is going to work,” he said. “But at the same time I think (the Danish officials) have a lot to offer.”

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who joined the summit through a video connection, reiterated the need for the state not to merely adapt alternative, environmentally-friendly energy practices, but to create a new industry altogether.

“The bottom line for me is to make sure we’re not just using alternative energy,” she said, “but making the technology here.”

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