Joint UMaine/Ocean Energy Institute to Honor Simmons Legacy, Further Ocean Energy Objectives

ROCKLAND–A generous donation from the family of the late Matthew R. Simmons, the founder and chair of the Ocean Energy Institute (OEI), along with all the gifts from friends and colleagues given to OEI in his memory, will create opportunities for the University of Maine to further the OEI objectives rooted in his visionary perspectives on the vast potential of ocean resources to provide clean energy options.

UMaine will establish a Matthew R. Simmons Ocean Energy Initiative Fund in its development office to pick up the OEI mantle and support work that will advance ocean energy research and development, education, commercialization and outreach efforts.

The Ocean Energy Institute itself will cease operations on January 31, 2011.

Matthew Simmons founded OEI in 2007 to create a think tank to promote the various forms of ocean energy. He was a leading oil and gas energy investment banker who saw the need for renewable ocean energy to help reduce the world’s dependency on supply-dependent fossil fuels.

His untimely August 2010 death constituted a “major loss” for the institute, according to managing director Robert West.

“Matt was an internationally known visionary leader, and a major supporter of renewable energy efforts,” West says. “This collaboration with UMaine will serve as a fitting tribute and will provide useful ways for OEI and its advocates to support UMaine’s internationally recognized ocean energy research initiatives.”

UMaine’s relevant key initiatives include its central place in the DeepCwind Consortium, which brings together private sector concerns, nonprofits and universities to further establish Maine’s national leadership role in deepwater offshore wind research and technology development.

“Matt’s leadership was instrumental in focusing attention and resources on ocean-based energy sources,” says UMaine President Robert Kennedy, who is an OEI board member.  “The initiative that bears his name will help us foster the collaborative arrangements involving public and private sector entities that will help our state continue as an established leader in this vital area.  We are proud to continue OEI’s work and we are most thankful for the generosity of Ellen Simmons, the entire Simmons family and all those associated with OEI.”

OEI will close its Rockland offices and transfer all its assets, including Matthew Simmons’ library of works, to UMaine’s AEWC Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which is home to UMaine’s research and development activity in deepwater offshore wind.

“We will continue to forge ahead with Matt’s vision to create ocean energy opportunities for our state, nation and world,” says Habib Dagher, director of the UMaine center and the DeepCwind Consortium. “Matt was a wonderful friend, a brilliant businessman and a great leader with whom we shared a common vision. We are particularly thankful to the Simmons family for entrusting us to carry on Matt’s legacy.”

Among its accomplishments since 2007, The Ocean Energy Institute was instrumental in identifying the vast potential for offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine and advocating for its development and use for the benefit of the people of Maine. OEI’s and UMaine’s early findings spurred the establishment of the Ocean Energy Task Force in 2008-2009, leading to policy, legislation, and the establishment of offshore ocean energy test sites.  OEI supported the early development of the DeepCwind program at UMaine. Its efforts were recognized in June when Simmons and the Institute received the 2010 Energy Ocean Pioneer Award for Education. UMaine received that same award in 2009.