Colorado State University’s Center for New Energy Economy, Chemistry Researcher Honored at Colorado Cleantech Awards

Note to Reporters: A Colorado Cleantech Industry Association logo and photos of Bill Ritter and Eugene Chen are available with the news release at

Former Gov. Bill Ritter, creator of a nationally recognized energy policy center at Colorado State University, and Professor Eugene Chen, a chemist who is commercializing sustainable bioplastics, have been recognized with prestigious awards from the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association.

The university’s Center for the New Energy Economy – an outreach center created by Ritter – received the National Cleantech Leadership Award at the association’s awards ceremony Monday, honoring Ritter’s efforts to work on a non-partisan basis with energy policymakers around the country.

Also honored as a “Research Rockstar” was Chen, a professor of chemistry who has developed patent-pending chemical processes that could create sustainable bioplastics, biofuels, and other value-added chemicals from biomass.

Ritter competed with the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory and the Ecotech Institute for the honor.

“CCIA is pleased to recognize the Center for the New Energy Economy as a national leader in clean energy development,” said Christine Shapard, executive director of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association. “Congratulations to former Governor Ritter for creating an effective organization that brings all eyes to the clean energy policy expertise that resides in Colorado.”

Governors, legislators and regulators in other states look to the Center for the New Energy Economy for non-partisan guidance on energy policy. In the past 18 months, Ritter has taught about 40 classes and given 100 talks – either keynote speeches or participation in panel discussions – from the National Association of State Energy Offices in Washington, D.C., to the National Association of Energy Service Companies in San Diego.

The center has helped build essential partnerships nationally and in Colorado around research-based clean energy solutions, workforce development and advancement of technologies that will fuel long-term, sustainable economic growth.

In CSU’s Chemistry department, Chen has developed a platform of processes to convert small molecules derived from nonedible plant biomass to bioplastics. The material could be used for everything from optical fibers and contact lenses to furniture and automobile parts. He has also developed catalytic processes that refine biomass into a platform chemical that can then be converted into biofuels and other value-added chemicals.

Officials with CSU Ventures, the university’s technology transfer arm, are optimistic about the commercial potential of the work and have filed several provisional patent applications on Chen’s processes.

“Dr. Chen exemplifies the kind of research that CSU faculty are conducting – cutting-edge practical solutions that solve real environmental problems while also assisting growth of the Colorado economy,” said Todd Headley, president of CSU Ventures.

CSU spinoff Solix BioSystems also competed in the awards Monday: CEO Joel Butler was a finalist for Cleantech Executive of the Year honor that was awarded to Mark Verheyen of TerraLUX.

The Colorado Cleantech Industry Association represents the interests of the state’s cleantech industry. The organization says Colorado State, the Colorado School of Mines and CU combined have filed more than 450 provisional, non-provisional and international clean technology patents in the past five years.