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Detroit โ€” Gina McCarthy, head of the U.S Environmental Protection Agency, stopped in Detroit Thursday to preach the gospel of economic development through smarter technology and cleaner energy.

Her stop in Midtown at the nonprofit NextEnergy brought her face to face with one local organization that embraces the mindset. The 13-year-old nonprofit specializes in developing advanced energy technologies and businesses.

During a brief tour, NextEnergy CEO Jean Redfield shows off the company's work โ€” from smart lighting systems to fully interactive home/car technology systems that help consumers monitor and control their energy use in previously unavailable ways.

Kevin Howley, chief operating officer of NextEnergy's lab partnerNextek Power Systems, said the company is often required to explain how its technology can be integrated into everyday lives.

"I think the biggest challenge is we've been too far ahead of the market for so long," Howley said. "We constantly find ourselves educating people."

That kind of education, McCarthy said, is essential to fulfilling the nation's energy goals laid out two years by President Barack Obama.

"The EPA right now is all about recognizing that we have to take action on climate," she said. "These technologies are part of the path forward to do that. It also continues our economic growth and transfer of technologies across sectors in a way that will grow jobs and continue to grow the economy."

McCarthy said Detroit makes sense as a hub for that kind of technology development.

"It's not unusual for this to happen in Detroit because it's been the home of the domestic auto industry for so long," she said. "And they are drivers of new technology โ€” pun intended."

jlynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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