Reality Check on Earth2Tech’s Top 10 Cleantech Predictions for 2009

Katie Fehrenbacher, writing on Earth2Tech, is one of the most prolific of the cleantech journalists. She compiled this week their 2009 top 10 cleantech predictions. Here’s my take, worth the electronic paper it’s printed on, of what she got right, wrong, “duh, of course”, and most understated. Just for fun, of course, Katie’s one of my most favorite bloggers.

1) U.S. Federal Policy On Climate Change Will Move Slowly:

Probably. But the end of 2009 in Copenhagen is still a pivotal point for the global climate change framework, so we have to get our act together to play ball.

2) Oil Prices Will Stay Low For Much of the Year, Potentially Climbing in Q4 of 2009:

True only if you believe that oil prices in the $30s are low. I happen not to. $15 is low. $40 is high. $140 is ridiculously high. Oil has been essentially deflationary for 30+ years, with just a blip looking flat in real terms the last couple. And the big variable is GDP growth. No economic recovery, no oil price stablization, let alone rise. I don’t buy that OPEC will stop the slide over the next couple of quarters either. And I don’t buy a Q4 climb.

3) Next Generation of Biofuels on the Backburner:

Only if you believe they were ever on the front burner. I’ve been blogging this siren’s song for years.

4) Green Buildings are Bright Spot:

Probably a good call. It is growing, but is it large enough to be a bright spot?

5) Utilities Turn to Energy Efficiency Programs:

Utilities ALWAYS turn to energy efficiency programs, they just never seem to achieve scale. But we can hope. My hope is demand side energy efficienciy gets included in our cap and trade scheme.

6) Gloomy Skies for Traditional Solar PV:

I disagree. In a year when companies are reporting falling sales, solar will still be a way outperfomer. But we should see margins compressed as the industry learns that it (gasp!) really is a heavily subsidized very cyclical business when supply growth meets subsidy weakness and economic turmoil.

7) Infotech Turns to Energy Efficiency to Save Cash:

Hmmmmh. With energy prices cratering? I could imagine some wind coming out of these sails (or sales). But I’m not an expert on this one.

8) More Green Buildings? Yes. Emergence of the Smart Home? No.:

Smart home is another of those siren’s songs. Smart metering, however, is a goldmine, and just now coming into it’s own. We’ll see how it weathers the financial crisis.

9) Public Perceptions of Green to Become More Savvy:

How about, the public just ceases to care? We’ll find out just how much of a luxury item “green” really is. My personal benchmark here is random chats with Erik Blachford, CEO of Terrapass, the leading retailer of carbon credits. His last prognosis – green may be a bit more of a luxury item than previously expected. But we can hope. And I’ll keep asking Erik.

10) Green Investors Go Conservative Or Double Down:

Come on people, energy is STILL the biggest industry out there. When energy prices are cratering it’s time to buy. Just stop buying into the highest cost producer (like next gen biofuels :)) of the most “out there” technology at venture prices. But try telling that to Sandhill Road.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at Jane Capital Partners LLC, the Chairman and Founding CEO of Carbonflow, Inc., edits the Cleantech Blog and Chairs Cleantech.org.

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