California’s Cleantech War – Prop 23

According to pick your favorite cleantech and carbon media outlet, California is at war. 

AB 32 is California’s carbon cap and trade law.   The law is most the way ready to implement, with the rulemaking in process now.  It’s aimed squarely at two goals, one, reduce California’s greenhouse gas emissions, and two, since such a reduction is largely symbolic without the rest of the world participating as well (CO2 is the only environmental pollutant that really doesn’t care where in the world it goes in or comes out, so is a truly global pollutant requiring a global response) continue California’s trend of environmental policy leadership, and be the beacon on the hill.

As it currently stands, AB 32 rules (as with most of these things the devil’s in the details, and the 2008 law takes a long time to work out the details) are supposed to be ready to go at the end of this year, and implemented in 2012.

Proposition 23 is an initiative on the ballot designed to indefinitely delay implementation of AB 32.  And for the record, if you don’t click that link at least read the Legislative Analyst’s analysis, I suggest you skip the vote.

The actual impact according to the California voter information guide would be to suspend part of the measures in the Scoping Plan (California’s overall GHG Plan), targeting about half of the emissions in the Scoping Plan:

“Various Climate Change Regulatory Activities Would Be Suspended. This proposition would result in the suspension of a number of measures in the Scoping Plan for which regulations either have been adopted or are proposed for adoption. Specifically, this proposition would likely suspend:

  • The proposed cap–and–trade regulation discussed above.
  • The “low carbon fuel standard” regulation that requires providers of transportation fuel in California (such as refiners and importers) to change the mix of fuels to lower GHG emissions.
  • The proposed ARB regulation that is intended to require privately and publicly owned utilities and others who sell electricity to obtain at least 33 percent of their supply from “renewable” sources, such as solar or wind power, by 2020. (The current requirement that 20 percent of the electricity obtained by privately owned utilities come from renewable sources by 2010 would not be suspended by this proposition.)
  • The fee to recover state agency costs of administering AB 32.

Much Regulation in the Scoping Plan Would Likely Continue. Many current activities related to addressing climate change and reducing GHG emissions would probably not be suspended by this proposition. That is because certain Scoping Plan regulations implement laws other than AB 32. The regulations that would likely move forward, for example, include:

  • New vehicle emission standards for cars and smaller trucks.
  • A program to encourage homeowners to install solar panels on their roofs.
  • Land–use policies to promote less reliance on vehicle use.
  • Building and appliance energy efficiency requirements.”

Because it is expected to scrap CARB’s proposed expansion of the California RPS to 33% of power from renewable sources up from the current goals of 20% (we’re not there yet), and the removal of the planned Low Carbon Fuel Standard, the entire cleantech sector is up in arms. 

Contrary to popular opinion, a Yes on Prop 23 probably won’t gut the cleantech sector – since cleantech is global and California’s cleantech companies are driven by programs well beyond its borders, since all the major programs Prop 23 affects haven’t actually been enacted yet and several key programs would be untouched (as well that the LCFS probably gets served by things other than cleantech biofuels anyway at least in the first years).  But it would cut into the future growth of renewables in the state a few years down the road, esp wind and large scale solar.

What it would definitely do is kill the nascent push in the US towards real cap and trade just a month ahead of the next round of international climate change negotiations in Cancun.  Quite frankly if California can’t deliver on its own cap and trade law, who else can?

And it would send a signal to the world that California voters are not quite as ready to be the beacon on the hill for environmental issues as they once were.

Will it hurt the economy and kill jobs if we don’t pass it and AB 32 continues?  Unfortunately it depends, with the pain more certain and likely nearer term, and the huge economic benefits more uncertain and likely longer term – though quite substantial in possibilities.  Yes, in the short term and medium term LCFS and 33% RPS and cap and trade will push up power prices and fuel prices in California, hurting consumers, and pushing some production out of the state (if other states and countries don’t continue to match the increased regulation).  That’s why it’s called alternative energy – it’s still more expensive.  But yes, it will probably simultaneously catalyze more venture capital investment (VC services is a big export for us), carbon markets investment (I know about two dozen companies that moved into California specifically because of AB 32 and its first mover advantage in US cap and trade and I helped bring 2 of them in myself), and certainly add some manufacturing and construction jobs in the cleantech sector. 

Net net, higher energy and manufacturing costs in California and an effective renewable and carbon quota mean economic losses in comparative advantage and to consumers in California.  But how much depends on exactly how good a job it does of catalyzing jobs in California for export or replacing business that we currently import to offset that.  And it is very, very hard to underestimate how good California’s environmental leadership has been at catalyzing US and global change.  Meaning the that comparative advantage loss may be short-lived (higher power prices from more low carbon renewables don’t cost California many jobs if its competitors adopt effective carbon prices as well), and if a new export industry and venture capital emerges to be a world leader (which basically pulls dollars from all around the world into Silicon Valley) it means more new California jobs gained than those lost from the comparative advantage shift, then all is good.

Unfortunately, some of that depends on how well CARB actually designs the final rules, and my big fear for California on AB 32 stems from how badly the state screwed up its last major energy deal – power deregulation.  Keep in mind Texas got that one right, and California’s was a fiasco (then as now blamed on the Texans – but I can buy 100% wind power for 11.4 cents a Kwh flat rate in Texas).

So, vote yes, and kill AB 32, and carbon leadership, and ding the rest of the cleantech sector, and you’ll probably never feel the impact in you pocket book (or realize it if you do).  But if you vote yes, you lose all moral right to claim cleantech and environmental leadership for the state.

Or vote no, and keep the state headed in the direction its going – leadership in renewables and carbon, and signal to the world that you care.  More than that, you tell yourself you believe that policy enabled innovation can change your fortune for the better, and outweigh the investment.  That’s technology and venture capital, and that’s what California does best. 

But please, vote for what *you* believe – not because the cleantech sector is screaming that you’re taking away their subsidy or because a couple of independent Texas oil companies are funding the no vote (they are, but to be fair, they provide a lot jobs and taxes to the state, California has not exactly gone out of its way play fair for them in the implementation of AB 32).  And don’t vote one way or the other just because you think it create or kill jobs – because which way the net outcome sways lies on our shoulders, too, from policy makers and CARB staff to the energy industry to the California consumer and business who will pay the final price and reap the final reward either way. 

Neal Dikeman is a founding partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital, has help found or has interests in businesses in carbon (as founding CEO of Carbonflow), solar, superconductors, and green products, and personally stands to lose a lot of money if Proposition 23 passes and AB 32 goes down.

New Models For Clean Technology Incubation and Commercialization

By Sanford Selman

We live in an age of intense global competition for more sustainable ways of providing food, water, energy and transportation to a growing population against a backdrop of diminishing and deteriorating natural resources. And thus, the race is on to create the next generation of technologies, business models and companies to provide these essential services and commodities. At stake are new, high quality jobs, export earnings, reduced dependence on imported energy, improved quality of life and host of other positive impacts. Investing in R&D would seem a no-brainer.

And invest we do. According to the National Science Foundation, public and private sector R&D investment in the US was $369 billion in 2008 – over twice that of Japan (No. 2 at $148 billion) and over 3.5 times that of China (No. 3 at $102 billion).

According to the National Business Incubator Association, the US has over 1100 business incubators as compared to roughly half that number in China. In cleantech, however, the US is losing the race to China in important areas such as solar photovoltaics and batteries where the technology traces its roots to the US and Europe.

Why, then, does the US, with its much larger pool of venture capital funds, lag in moving clean technology from lab to market, especially compared to a relative latecomer to cleantech such as China? Both countries have first rate university systems and enjoy a culture of entrepreneurship. But there are stark differences which give China a distinct edge, especially in cleantech, including:

  • A more stable policy environment that unambiguously supports cleaner forms of energy supply and energy use.
  • More diffuse boundaries between government, academia and industry which allows for greater pooling of resources – commercial, financial and technical.
  • Lower costs of de-risking technology, due to the lower cost of highly qualified technical talent, and manufacturing.
  • Huge, state-controlled infrastructure markets (e.g. power generation, water/wastewater, hydrocarbons, etc.) where the playing field can be tilted in favor of domestic suppliers.

In today’s highly disrupted capital market, early-stage venture investment has dropped precipitously and this is especially true for cleantech – a sector which has struggled to demonstrate strong, broad-based financial returns. Additionally, scaling and deploying clean technologies often involves significant capital investment while venture funds are trying to do just the opposite – invest as little as possible to get to positive cash flow. This focus on “capital efficiency” also means early-stage companies are out of favor. Hence, the gap between the early-stage cleantech companies found in incubators and what venture investors are buying has widened while countries such as China plow ahead with their national priorities.

A new incubator model

One of the main roles of an incubator is to prepare their clients for presentation to outside investors and to help facilitate those introductions. But their clients often have little progress to show in technology scale-up or customer acquisition. Frequently, their business model has not been vetted, key members of the management team are not on board and a helpful, engaged Board is not in place. Another approach is needed to close the widening gap between incubator clients and the venture community.

By acting more like a seed-stage fund itself, an incubator can add the value required to make its clients marketable to outside investors. In this model, the incubator’s advisory board must be sufficiently qualified and engaged to undertake preliminary vetting of applicants so that only the most technically and commercially promising businesses are admitted. Once admitted, the incubator should “smother” the client with resources, including missing commercial and technical talent, access to strategic partners, access to prospective customers and the seed-stage capital necessary to pull the plan together. A more resource-intensive approach focused on fewer clients stands a better chance of achieving the longer-term goal of graduating more successful businesses out of the incubator, creating jobs and enhancing the opportunity for the seed capital to earn a return.

A new strategic partner engagement model
Early-stage companies need to conserve cash by leveraging relationships with strategic partners and suppliers who can help grow their businesses. Risk sharing or the more appealing term, “gain sharing”, is becoming more popular. Two examples are worth noting.

Autodesk, a leading global vendor of engineering and design software, launched the Autodesk Clean Tech Partner Program (www.autodesk.com/cleantech) to support early-stage clean technology companies by providing up to $150,000 worth of software for a nominal fee. Autodesk’s long-term objective is to build brand loyalty by giving participants with design tools they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford, and thus help them become successful more rapidly.

PLUSHnyc (www.plushnyc.com) is a Manhattan-based post production audio/video company whose clients include some the biggest names in media, advertising and retailing. PLUSHnyc offers their excess design and production capacity to early-stage, venture-backed companies at a nominal rate and, in return, receives equity in proportion to the market value of their services. Similar to Autodesk, PLUSHnyc affords access to world class services their clients could not otherwise afford.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of US R&D spending, innovative business models must be called upon to more effectively that tap the vast talents and resources of the private sector and accelerate the commercialization of US-developed technology by American companies.

Sanford J. Selman is Managing Director of Asia West LLC in Oyster Bay, NY. Mr. Selman founded and managed the Asia West Environment Fund, an early-stage cleantech venture fund that invested in North America and Europe with proprietary technologies that are commercially and environmentally relevant to China and/or India. Mr. Selman has 30 years of experience developing and financing of energy and environmental infrastructure and technology globally. Mr. Selman holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering (with Distinction) from Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a MBA in Finance and Investments from The George Washington University.

Lithium ETF Plays Growth of Electric Cars and Mobile Electronics

By John Addison (10/26/10)

You may be reading this article thanks to the lithium battery in your notebook computer, smartphone, or other mobile device. Demand for lithium is forecasted to double in this decade thanks to a wide range of applications for this metal that is half the weight of water: materials, glass, pharmaceuticals, mobile electronics, power tools, hybrid cars, and electric cars.

Currently, electric cars cost more to purchase than many gasoline-powered cars, but less to fuel. Electric charging is equivalent to fueling with gasoline at 75 cents per gallon in many situations. Nighttime charge rates are even lower.

In 2012, Ford (F) will deliver about 100,000 lithium battery packs in its electric vehicles, newplug-in hybrid, and in all hybrids. Nissan (NSANY) will bring on-line a new battery plant in Tennessee that can make 200,000 lithium battery packs annually for its LEAF and hybrids. These volumes, improved battery chemistry, and streamlined supply chains will drive down the cost of lithium batteries. Automotive lithium battery packs currently cost about $700 per kilowatt-hour. By the end of the decade, automakers are optimistic that they will lower the cost to $250/kWh, at which point electric cars will be less expensive to buy than most gasoline cars.

What do the financial markets make of lithium? To find out, I interviewed Bruno del Ama, CEO of Global X Funds. His exchange-traded fund, Global X Lithium ETF (NYSE: LIT), was launched on July 23, 2010, at 16. It has already soared to 20. For some investors, lithium is the new gold. 10 of the fund holdings are in lithium mining and processing companies; 10 in lithium battery makers.

The fund is dominated with large mining firms such as Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), FMC Corporation (FMC), and Rockwood Holdings (ROC). The fund is not a dream for environmentally and socially conscience investors. These companies mine a range of metals, using energy intensive processes, chemicals, and put miners in harm’s way.

The fund’s largest lithium battery company holdings include Saft, Ener1, ABT, GS Yuasa, and A123. Saft in a joint venture (JV) with Johnson Controls supplies Ford for the Transit Connect Electric and Mercedes hybrids. GS Yuasa supplies the current Japanese EV leader, Mitsubishi; GS Yuasa is well positioned to be Honda’s supplier for new electric and plug-in hybrids. Ener1 is betting on the Think. A123 is supplying Fisker and non-automotive applications.

The fund does not include the battery companies most successful in lithium: NEC, Panasonic, Samsung, and LG Chem. These diversified giants are excluded because their lithium battery business is less than the 15 percent minimum to be included in LIT. NEC is in the AESC joint venture with Nissan. Panasonic supplies Toyota and Tesla. Samsung is in a JV with Bosch to supply makers such as BMW. LG Chem’s Compact Power is supplying lithium batteries for the Chevrolet Volt and the Ford Electric.

Scientific American reports a 500-year supply of lithium, compared with only decades of available cooper. Demand for lithium will increase as we expand from devices that only need one battery cell, to notebook PCs needing the equivalent of 8, to hybrid cars that use the equivalent of 125, to the Nissan LEAF, which uses the equivalent of 3,000.Reuters Lithium Facts

It would take 60 million cars to use the current annual production of lithium. Although there is plenty of lithium, prices will increase to keep up with the growing demand. Since a typical electric car battery pack only uses 4 pounds of lithium, the price will have little impact on the total battery cost.

There is no guarantee that today’s lithium ion batteries will be the leaders in future decades. Labs to start-ups are working on lithium air, zinc air, fuel cells, ultracapacitors, and hybrid energy storage. It is challenging to overcome lithium ion’s cost and scale advantages. More energy can be stored in an ounce of this metal than any practical metal alternative.

By 2020, the California Energy Commission forecasts 1.5 million plug-in cars on California roads. Clean Fleet Report forecasts 10 million for the USA. Cars, mobile electronics, and many applications will fuel the demand for the lightest of metals and create growth opportunities for the leading battery suppliers.

By John Addison. Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. Disclosure: author owns shares of LIT.

It’s About China, Stupid

by Richard T. Stuebi

In the energy sector, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the name of the game — whatever game you wanna talk about — is China.

My favorite recent contribution to this strain of literature was a blog entry from late August written by the Center for Geoeconomic Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations
called “China Will Force the World Off Oil”. Here’s the eye-popping core of this short post:

“As a country’s per capita income increases, its per capita oil consumption increases. Consumption growth tends to be modest up until $15,000 income per head, but then accelerates rapidly. China is quickly approaching this point…Were China’s per capita oil consumption be brought up to South Korea’s, its share of global consumption would increase from today’s 10% to over 70%. In order to cap China’s share at 22%, which is the U.S. share today, global oil output would have to increase by a massive 13% per annum over ten years — well beyond the 1% growth averaged since 1975. This rate of growth is inconceivable, even if vastly more expensive sources of supply…were developed at breakneck speed.”

And, of course, this is why China is leading the pack on advanced energy technologies of all sorts to move off of oil and other fossil fuels. Take batteries, for instance: as Thomas Friedman noted in his late September New York Times editorial “Their Moon Shot and Ours”, China will be “providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry.”

Note the choice of words: Beijing is not aiming to merely build companies, but to create entire industries. (Of course, that’s easier said than done, and top-down command-and-control economic dictates don’t necessarily produce success.)

And, note the magnitude of dollars: $15 billion of them, just for electric vehicles (not to mention investments in solar energy, wind energy, etc.). In contrast, according to some comments made at the Cleantech Forum in New York earlier this month by Dr. Arun Majumdar, Director of ARPA-E, the U.S. spends more each year on potato chips than it does on energy sector R&D.

Here in the U.S., we don’t have a lot of disposable dollars either in public or private coffers, and we aren’t inclined to allocate a large share of the little we have to our energy challenges. China has lots of bucks — primarily from U.S. purchases of consumer products — and is flowing a large portion of them to energy technologies. The Chinese can see, as apparently we Americans can’t, that the current energy paradigm isn’t sustainable — even if we loved it and didn’t want it to change. Even though status quo isn’t an option, we Americans seem to think our current system of energy supplies, technologies and economics is a destiny or a right that must be defended.

Why, then, do we need to ask what ABC World News did a few months ago with their story “Clean Energy: Why Is China Ahead of the U.S.?” Why, then, is anyone surprised when they learn about examples such as New Jersey-based solar company Natcore Technology being lured by sizable financial inducements to set up operations in China?

If you want to be at the tip of the spear in advanced energy over the coming decades, you will need a major presence in China. It’s really that simple.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

My First View of Solyndra Up Close



Solyndra CIGS Panels on South Houston High

I had a chance to see my first Solyndra solar panels in action today.
Three organizations run by friends of mine, HARC, Ignite Solar, and American Electric Technologies, are partnered up to install a 145 kW uber photovoltaic test bed on two schools (Sam Rayburn and South Houston) in Pasadena ISD in Houston, Texas.  They were scrambling around on the roof doing the installation as I watched. A very cool experience.

They’re stuffing an array of 182 Wp Solyndra panels across from an array of 210 Wp Moser Baer crystalline silicon panels on a flat roof penetrating fixed mounting at a 10 degree angle, next door to Uni-Solar amorphous silicon flexible panels (there photovoltaic laminate products) from Energy Conversion Devices (Nasdaq:ENER) with a non penetrating adhesive backing on a 22 degree ribbed roof next to more of the Moser Baer in a non roof penetrating mount on that 22 degree roof. Later they’re putting in more Moser Baer crystalline on trackers.

Unisolar Stick on Amorphous Panels

All the systems are to be wired up to AETI inverters, and will have a weather station, temperature sensors and monitoring.  HARC, the Houston Area Research Council is the system owner, and will monitor the lab for Pasadena ISD, plus they are putting in a kiosk in the schools so the students can see the side by side results live, technology vs technology and school vs school.

A few interesting tidbits.  You gotta love all those slef shadows underneath the 90 Solyndra modules, we will be very interested to see what they actually deliver – though for the price difference, it had better be spectacular.   I hadn’t seen the Uni-Solar product just stuck straight on to a roof before, quite amazing.  The Moser Baer product I’d seen, but it’ll be interesting to watch it go head to head with thin film in different configurations, it’s certainly got the highest power rating of the systems tested.

What really excites me is the side by side comparison.  Ignite and HARC told me they can get actual performance data from each technology type and configuration, that we can compare to costs and rated performance, as well as weather and temperature data, and hopefully this time next year we’ll be publishing a who beat who account with an overunder graph!

Neal Dikeman is a Partner and Jane Capital Partners, a cleantech and alternative energy merchant bank.  He was a cofounder of Zenergy Power, and the founding CEO of Carbonflow, and helped launch Meridan Energy’s solar business, as well as is Chief Blogger of Cleantechblog.com and Chairman of Cleantech.org. A Texas Aggie, his current project is helping grow Jane Capital’s most recent company, Greenhome.com.

Jane Capital Partners LLC Acquires Leading Green Ecommerce Company Greenhome.com

Jane Capital Partners LLC Acquires Leading Green Ecommerce Company Greenhome.com

  • Greenhome.com’s ecostore is the market leader for online sales of green and environmental products
  • The acquisition provides Green Home with capital to grow, and expand its green business efforts, including its offerings of compostables and green cleaning supplies
  • Online sales of green products have grown at double digit rates since 2005 and are expected to more than quadruple by 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif – Oct. 12, 2010 –Jane Capital Partners LLC, http://www.janecapital.com/, an alternative energy and cleantech merchant bank, announced today the acquisition of green ecommerce pioneer Greenhome.com, http://www.greenhome.com/. San Francisco-based Green Home is the original online “ecostore,” now carrying thousands of green products for both the green home and green business.

“Our research shows Greenhome.com is the premier green e-tailing platform and one of the most respected green retail brands,” said Jane Capital managing partner Jane Lindner. Added Neal Dikeman, a founding partner of Jane Capital: “To reach business and consumer customers, the explosion of new clean technologies and new green products needs a way to market – a way the customer can trust. We believe Greenhome.com is that way.”

Started as just an idea in his garage by environmentalist Lawrence Axil Comras in 1999, Greenhome.com has sold millions of dollars of green products, has introduced some of the most successful green products to the consumer market including the transparent chlorine removing shower filter, and enjoys the top ranking on all search engines for “green products” and “environmental products.” Green Home was the first retailer to develop and insist upon using a rigorous green ratings methodology for all products sold. Green Home originator Mr. Comras is widely recognized as one of the creators of the term “greening,” and has been featured in radio and TV including The Today Show, CBS News, Fox News, and also in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Comras said, “Since 1999 I have worked to build Greenhome.com in ecommerce, but also drive practical use of rigorous green product standards into the market. Jane Capital has an appreciation and commitment to both strong standards and pragmatic environmentalism, and the resources and vision to continue to grow Greenhome.com.”

###

About Jane Capital Partners LLC

Jane Capital is a leading merchant bank in the cleantech sector, located in San Francisco and Houston, which has funded or founded multiple cleantech spin-offs, and advised multinational energy companies on alternative energy. Jane Capital operates Cleantech.org, CleantechBlog.com, cofounded Carbonflow and Zenergy Power, helped found the solar business of Meridian Energy Ltd. of New Zealand and advised them on the acquisition of solar IPP Cleantech America.

About Green Home, Inc.

Headquartered in San Francisco, CA, Green Home, Inc. is a privately held company. Since 1999, its principal product has been Greenhome.com, which has grown to become the premier online resource for consumers interested in environmentally conscious living. Green Home provides products and information that promote a healthier, more ecologically sound home environment. Green Home was founded and is majority owned by CEO and eco-pioneer Lawrence Axil Comras, a leading speaker on sustainability and widely recognized expert in the field of greening.

Media Contacts:

Jane Lindner
415-282-6400
jane@greenhome.com

Lawrence Axil Comras

415-237-6400
lawrence@greenhome.com

Texas A&M Sustainability Day and The Aggie Green Fund

I had a chance to stop in at the Campus Sustainability Day at my alma mater, Texas A&M today.  It was great to see all the activity.  We definitely didn’t have such when I was in school.

The turnout included various Texas A&M facilities and utilities departments, a number of student committees and organizations, and local businesses. As one example, the Department of Residence Life was showcasing now the series of programs it runs and an Energy Challenge to get students engaged in greening the campus (my old dorm, Lechner, came in bottom third, I noticed).

And the University now also has a 2 year old Office of Sustainability, which has developed the university master sustainability plan around 12 target areas:

  • Management of Climate Change
  • Purchasing of Sustainable Goods and Services
  • Optimization of Energy Use
  • Sustainable Food and Dining
  • Management of Water Resources
  • Waste Management
  • Sustainable Land Use
  • Use of Green Building Practices
  • Utilization of Alternative Transportation and Fuels
  • Improving Social and Economic Factors
  • Education and Research
  • Management and Funding Support

I had a chance to chat with the Office of Sustainability’s Director, Kelly Wellman, about some of the programs they are working on.  A massive city unto itself, the campus has a huge potential to be a force for sustainability.  A&M’s self assessment highlights a long term plan to improve, but it was great to see it hasn’t been standing still.

Highlights include:
A free biodiesel powered transit bus system
A 65% reduction in per square foot water usage since 1991
And a 33% per square foot energy use reduction since 2002

But the one that struck me the most was the newly launched Aggie Green Fund.  The Green Fund is “a student initiated and student controlled fund that will empower students to take action and bring about novel and creative sustainability initiatives to our campus. It will cost only $3 per semester or $1.50 per summer session, generating approximately $300,000 per academic year for sustainability initiatives.”  Basically it allows a student committee to select and fund student proposed sustainability projects with student approved and student funded money.  This year is the first year of operations, as it was passed in a student vote last year with 57% voting to assess themselves a dedicated sustainability fee to make it happen.

Quite inspiring.  Especially in a world where public funding for state universities has been under pressure.  I hope when I was a student that I’d have been one of the 57% voting yes.

Neal Dikeman is a Texas Aggie, Class of ’98, and a Partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC.  He is one of the owners of the leading ecostore on the web for green and environmental products, Greenhome.com.

California Cleantech Attacked by Prop 23


California is World’s Third Biggest Oil Consumer

Over 95 percent of California transportation is fueled by petroleum. Electric light-rail, CNG buses and trucks, ethanol blended in gasoline make up the rest. No other state is more addicted to oil. By comparison, only two nations use more oil – China and the United States. California uses more oil than India, Japan, or Germany.

California wants to be more energy secure, have cleaner skies, lower healthcare costs for asthma, and reduce its own contribution to the global warming that threatens water shortage and failed crops. In 2006, a Republican Governor signed the nation’s most comprehensive climate legislation, AB32, shaped by both parties in the State Assembly and Senate. The law would increase refinery costs and encourage a reduced use of petroleum.

California’s efficiency and climate solutions are creating over a million cleantech related jobs as use of fossil fuel declines. According to recent scenario’s from the California Energy Commission, “Between 2007 and 2030, staff estimates total annual gasoline consumption in California to fall 13.3 percent in the low-demand case to 13.57 billion gallons, largely as a result of high fuel prices, efficiency gains, and competing fuel technologies. In the high-demand case, the recovering economy and lower relative prices lead to a gasoline demand peak in 2014 of 16.40 billion gallons before consumption falls to a 2030 level of 14.32 billion gallons, 8.5 percent below 2007 levels. CEC Report

Reducing the use of petroleum, of course, would cost oil companies billions. Texas oil companies are buying TV ads to encourage Californians to vote “yes” for Proposition 23 this November. The proposition would require the State to abandon implementation of a comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted.”

Prop 23’s biggest backers, Valero and Tesoro, are responsible for 16.7% of California’s emissions, according to the California League of Conservation Voters. Prop 23 will allow California oil refineries to avoid paying over one billion dollars for carbon emissions. Prop 23 is promoted as a jobs creation, but it’s a job killer. A recent UC study reported that California’s successful efforts to become cleaner have already created 1.5 million jobs with a total payroll of over $45 billion.

California leads the nation with 25,000 electric cars on the road and thousands of new electric charge stations scheduled for installation. By the end of the decade, California could have a million electric cars on the road. California’s Electric Transportation Report

66 leading investors representing $400 billion oppose proposition 23 as harmful to jobs and investment

Proposition 23’s opponents include 66 asset managers, venture capitalists and other investors collectively managing over $410 billion who issued a joint statement today opposing Proposition 23, the statewide ballot initiative to stop implementation of the state’s landmark clean energy law, AB 32.

Tesla electric cars, Better Place, and Bright Source Energy would not have achieved their success without the investment and guidance of VantagePoint Venture Partners, who has invested $1.5 billion in a portfolio of over 25 leading clean technology companies. Vantage CEO, Alan Salzman, sees a trillion dollar future in clean transportation, energy, water, lighting, and materials. On today’s conference call he stated, “We don’t want our cleantech future high-jacked. Is California going to stay in the game, or cede to China, India, and Russia?”

The oil industry attack on California carbon pricing will not stop cleantech, but it may stop the next 500,000 cleantech jobs from being in California. At stake is whether the next Google or Tesla is in the U.S., or in some other country. When asked whether putting a price on carbon would cost consumer’s money, Salzman responded, “This is about using technology to modernize ancient technology, such as the light-bulb. “ He sited that new LED only uses 15 percent of energy of old bulbs. We have cheaper and better technology. Flat screens that cost $15,000, now cost $400 due to learning curve and scale.

Kevin Parker, Deutsche Bank Climate Change Advisers has over $1.5 billion of their $8 billion invested in cleantech. He stated that a billion dollar wind or solar project only happens when investors or lenders have TLC– transparency, longevity, and certainty. A predictable price on carbon could make the next utility scale wind farm a good investment. No TLC, no renewable energy, no thousands of jobs – only consumers stuck with coal and gas generated electricity. If Prop 23 is defeated, major clean energy projects can move forward. He sees the stakes being much bigger than California. With our failure to support clean energy in the U.S. Senate, other states will either follow California’s cleantech lead, or they will give up on climate legislation. The U.S. will fall behind other nations, unless investors have reason to invest in U.S. cleantech.

Chris Davis, a director of Ceres and director of the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 90 investors with assets exceeding $9 trillion focused on the business impacts of climate change agreed that investors could easily move money and jobs globally. He stated, “Cleantech is a major economic engine. Trying to repeal the future will not get us there.”

The U.S. can win or lose in a future that includes energy efficient materials, LED lights,electric cars, high-speed rail, wind power, solar power, smart grids and smart apps. If Californian’s defeat Prop 23 on November 2, Texas may be a few hundred jobs lighter and California a few hundred thousand jobs richer. California Cleantech Jobs

Global Cleantech 100

by Richard T. Stuebi

This past week in New York, at its annual East Coast investor forum, the Cleantech Group released its 2010 Global Cleantech 100, profiling the private cleantech companies that a set of panelists thinks has the most promise for large long-term impact.

Some highlights from the list and the report:

  1. In the panel’s eyes, the most promising company is Silver Springs Networks, followed by Zipcar, Opower, Bridgelux, and BrightSource Energy. Of course, the panel isn’t infallible: one of the 2009 Cleantech 100, Imara, flamed out even before 2009 ended.
  2. Energy efficiency displaced solar as the subsegment of cleantech with the most firms on the list, with 15. Solar and biofuels each account for 14 companies on the list. As big and active as the segment is, only one company in wind energy made the list.
  3. The U.S. remains the dominant geographic region for cleantech (55), with California far and away the leading state (33), and no other state with more than 8 (Massachusetts). However, Asia-Pacific (especially China) is fast on the rise.
  4. VantagePoint is the venture firm with the most companies on the list (14), one more than Kleiner Perkins.
  5. Corporate strategic partners and investors are increasing their cleantech activities. Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), IBM (NYSE: IBM), Siemens (XETRA: SIE), PG&E (NYSE: PCG), Landis & Gyr (a large global private company that itself is on the Cleantech 100) and General Electric (NYSE: GE) are at the top of the heap in engaging with companies on the list.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

Johnson Controls SAFT Lithium Batteries

By John Addison (10/12/10)

AT&T (T), Xcel Energy (XEL), Johnson Controls (JCI), Southern California Edison (SCE), and New York Power Authority have all ordered Ford Transit Connect Electric. These pure battery-electric vans have an electric charge range of 80 miles and are a great fit for many fleet, small business, and delivery applications. Although Nissan and Chevrolet are the center of EV attention, fleets are the early adapters of new vehicles.

In the United States, fleets control some 14 million vehicles. Some fleets placed initial orders for 10 or 20 Transit Connect Electrics; bigger orders could follow in 2011. JCI has ordered 20 Transit Connect Electrics to be part of its global fleet of 19,000 vehicles.

At the heart of these compact Ford electric vans are 28 kWh lithium battery packs made by a joint venture of SAFT and Johnson Controls, #1 maker of automotive batteries, a tier 1 auto supplier, and leader in building efficiency. The other day, I interviewed Mary Ann Wright, Vice President of Global Technology and Innovation Accelerator for Johnson Controls, to better understand the future of electric vehicles and advanced batteries. Johnson Controls is one of the 100 largest corporations in the U.S., with over 60,000 employees.

Partnerships are critical to success in electric vehicles. As the world’s largest manufacturer of lead-acid batteries, Johnson Controls (JCI) works closely with its material suppliers. To accelerate development of lithium batteries, R&D and manufacturing is a joint venture of Johnson Controls – SAFT (JCS).

For speed to market, Ford has partnered with Azure Dynamics (AZD), who integrates their drive system and the Johnson Controls – SAFT (JCS) lithium batteries into the Transit Connect chassis, which is also available in gasoline and CNG versions. My test drive of the Ford Transit Connect Electric demonstrated that it is practical for many fleet applications. JCI owns over 3% of AZD.

Since 2007, Ford and Johnson Controls have worked with leading electric utilities and EPRI. In 2007, Ford announced a partnership with Southern California Edison, the electric utility with the nation’s largest and most advanced electric vehicle fleet. The partnership is designed to explore ways to make plug-in hybrids more accessible to consumers, reduce petroleum-related emissions and understand issues related to connectivity between vehicles and the electric grid. For the 3-year study, Ford Escape Plug-in Hybrids have been heavily used. It will not be until 2012, that consumers can order plug-in hybrids from Ford.

Vice President Wright told me that driving lithium battery packs down in price from industry numbers like today’s $700/kWh to a future of $200/kWh would price electric car on par with cars powered with internal combustion engines. Progress is being made at every level. Manufacturing volume will be a key driver.

The drive for cost reduction will greatly benefit consumers and fleets; cost reduction initiatives will be a mixed blessing for battery suppliers. Last year, Ford had announced that JCS would supply the lithium batteries for its 2012 Plug-in Hybrid which Clean Fleet Report forecasts will be a new Ford Focus PHEV. Now JCS will not be the supplier. Ford has decided to make its own battery packs, and have different manufacturers compete to supply the cells. JCS is the winner for the Transit Connect Electric; LG Chem’s Compact Power is the winner for the Ford Focus Electric; competition has been intense for the PHEV. It appears that Ford has selected the PHEV cell supplier, but has not yet made the announcement.

In this decade, Nancy Gioia, Director Ford Global Electrification, told me that she would like to see Ford reach $250/kWh and have hybrid and electric vehicles represent 10 to 25% of total Ford sales. Ford is making no guarantees for such an ambitious program. Ford lithium cell providers are dealing with a tough customer that could deliver high volumes and continuous improvement.

For $28 billion Johnson Controls, Ford is an important customer, but only one customer. BMW and Mercedes are already using JCS lithium batteries in hybrids. In this decade, JCI sees the biggest opportunity in advanced start-stop, mild, and full hybrid vehicles; with pure battery-electrics being a smaller opportunity. By 2025, Ms. Wright only forecasts 3% of cars being full hybrid and electric.

Look inside a hybrid car and you will see two types of batteries: advanced nickel metal or lithium batteries for the electric motor and a 12V lead-acid battery for the auxiliaries. Lead-acid batteries will continue to be used in hundreds of millions of vehicles including hybrid and those with only an ICE. Johnson Controls continues to advance lead-acid batteries with new VARTA Start-Stop technology. These new batteries are optimal for the micro hybrids now on the road in Europe in over a million cars and coming to the USA. Turning off an engine reduces fuel consumption up to 12% when a vehicle is stationary, such as red lights and rush-hour gridlock. BMW was first to use the micro hybrid approach, now Volkswagen, Audi and others are including start-stop in some models.

When I toured Johnson Controls in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, last year, advancements in both lead-acid and lithium batteries were conspicuous. JCI told me that 98% of the materials in both battery technologies are recycled. As a world leader in energy efficient buildings, Johnson Controls will have the opportunity to repurpose lithium batteries in stationary applications before materials recycling.

Improved battery technology will continue to enable vehicles to use less fuel per mile, show us bluer skies with less air pollution, and reduce our current 97% dependency on petroleum as the only way to fuel a car.

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. The author has no position in the stocks mentioned in this article.

A Cleantech Blogger’s Home Energy Audit – The Results Are In

A few weeks ago I blogged a very bad experience trying to get an energy audit done on my home.  The vendor, Standard Renewable Energy, part of Gridpoint, just didn’t do the job.  After our blog article, the company came back to do the audit right for me, complete with a IR camera looking for hotspots, blower door test, and duct test.

I just got my report, and wanted to share the experience.  Consider it kind of like our cleantech blogger CSR report.  I’ve posted the full energy audit report on our Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group for your reading pleasure.

For those of you who want to blog your own home energy audit, I’d love for you to join the Cleantech.org Yahoo! Group and send in a message with your experience or report in attachment.

If you’re looking to sort through what kinds of products are available, our sister site www.greenhome.com/ has a ton of them including:

as well as hundreds of articles on the how to side of things, for everything from energy efficiency to general greening.

My personal scorecard:

The results were mixed, not bad over all, but a lot of room for improvement.

I apparently have a pretty low energy rate house, at 23 kBTUs/Sq Ft, apparently a little over half the average.  Not bad for a 55 year old ranch house. This despite very little insulation in the attic, none in walls, and not particularly efficient appliances.  But for better or worse, with our total summer energy bill in the $125/month range ($8.9/kwh) plus gas bill for hot water at less than $20/month, not much makes economic sense to do.  I think we may just be very boring in our energy use!

We didn’t do so hot on the blower and duct tests (that’s where they pull a light vacuum and measure how leaky your house envelope and duct work is.  The combination is a measure of how much your system is air conditioning things other than your home).  We are about double the recommended levels of leakage, and that’s after redoing the windows.

And we haven’t insulated the attic (current R value is estimated at 13, something like R 38 is desirable).  The nearly $1800 attic insulation quote I had gotten previously was looking like a 5-7 year payback, and unfortunately paying to seal the ducts and replace the air return looks like it would be marginal as well.  Sealing the ducts probably would pay off, however, we have an old house whose air return is way undersized and very poorly sealed, probably a vestige of the original heat only return pre air conditioning, meaning I’d need to tear up my hallway and put a new one in the ceiling to do it right.  The other big move would be to do some sort of an attic fan to do active attic ventilation, and keep my cooling load down.

One bathroom is basically an energy black hole, sucking my energy straight out to somewhere, but except for attic insulation they didn’t have a lot of good suggestions for this one. Since it’s my bathroom not hers, my wife just didn’t seem as concerned as I was.

The big contributor to be honest is likely not even in the house – we bought a very well shaded moderately sized house with 4 huge oak trees and 1 magnolia shading it, and keep the AC in high 70s in favor of a lot of ceiling fans.

And apparently, despite having big pretty windows and lots of light, we don’t have a high window area/square foot ratio, and all but one are pretty shaded. We did replace them with energy efficient double paned windows this summer, which besides an Energy Star washer/dryer was our only major energy efficiency move so far. Even more than the energy, replacing the windows made a huge difference in comfort, while still keeping the AC temperature fairly high.

On the negative side, I added 26 recessed can lights to the ceiling (I can’t help it, I like light!), about doubling the lighting capacity of the house to 5kW with very few CFLs.  But each room has multiple lighting systems (eg, ceiling fixture plus recessed or recessed plus lamps) on different switches, and we are pretty good about keeping on only what we need, so it really didn’t drive up the usage.

We’ve got a couple of small, cheap items that definitely make economic sense.   Only 1 of the 4 outside doors is weatherstripped (and one has a huge south facing single paned window that failed the IR test badly), and caulking along the base boards/sealing the various light switches (they make basically soft gaskets you can put on yourself that do the trick) and attic stairs would help seal the living area a bit (maybe just offsetting all those lighting cans!).

The south facing roof is mostly shaded by trees, and that plus our low electricity and hot water usage and low electric rates means solar is pretty much out.

We’ve done nothing about “vampires” or phantom loads, but we also don’t have a huge number of electronics, so it’s not too bad.

The one thing I was really excited about which the auditor just didn’t seem to think was worthwhile was an attic radiant barrier.  They recommended simply attic better ventilation as a first step.

In any case I’ll blog the results in a couple of months and give the blow by blow on whatever we end up doing.

My conclusions:

It’s hard to really find a lot things that were economic and environmental no brainers.  Most of the big items looked to be “on the bubble.”  Lots of little things from CFLs to those little light socket gaskets and weatherstripping need to get done.   And I do need to bite the bullet on some big items like the insulation.

Part of me really wants to see how far down I could get my energy usage. Is 300 kWh/month possible without self generating?  I’m going to have to do some calculations.

One of the problems with a house like ours is that when you start with moderately low usage, and plan on doing all the small cheap items, your bill gets so low you can’t payback any of the big ones.  So maybe energy efficiency retrofits is only really the province of the true energy hog or those who just believe.

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, chief blogger of CleantechBlog.com, and is responsible for starting companies in carbon, superconductors, solar and fuel cells, as well as launching Cleantech.org.  He is a Texas Aggie, and his grandfather and great grandfather were both refrigeration and air conditioning engineers.

Craton Barreling Ahead

by Richard T. Stuebi

Being a senior advisor to the firm, I attended last week’s annual meeting of Craton Equity Partners, a cleantech private equity fund manager based in Los Angeles.

While cleantech in its focus, Craton doesn’t take on much technology risk. Rather, Craton generally invests in companies that have largely proven their technologies – or frankly don’t rely much on proprietary technologies – and are already generating substantial revenues, requiring growth capital to build out their business models into sizable scale.

This was illustrated by the stories told by three of Craton’s portfolio companies:

  • Propel Fuels, which is developing a critical mass of biofuel retailing locations – by leasing space at existing gas stations, installing necessary equipment for biofuels, managing fuel delivery logistics, and retail marketing via co-branding – across California, with a view towards replicating this model in other geographic markets in the U.S.
  • Petra Solar, which has standardized a photovoltaic product for installation on power poles, thereby enabling utilities to meet renewable portfolio standard requirements while also improving the quality and management of power throughout their distribution grids.
  • GreenWave Reality, which is aiming to extend the smart-grid “beyond the meter” and into the home, via a centralized radio-broadcasting gateway at the service entrance and a variety of intelligence-enabled radio-controlled applications throughout the home to manage energy usage.

Along with these three presentations by portfolio company CEOs, the Craton senior partners provided their perspective on the state of the cleantech investment markets.

Of note, the Craton partners believe that the collapse of the credit markets over the past few years has yielded good opportunities for its fund to invest equity in companies – some of whom are generating tens of millions of dollars of revenues, and already profitable – that really ought to have been able to secure debt during more normal times, thereby generating attractive risk-return profiles upon which Craton could capitalize. Clearly, Craton was fortunate to have been focused on later-stage private equity opportunities, rather than earlier-stage venture capital opportunities, where the credit crunch has provided no such opening.

The recent addition of Kevin Wall to the Craton team, possessing significant high-level contacts around the world, reflects Craton’s view that many of the best growth and exit possibilities for cleantech in the coming years will occur internationally. This is a sad but entirely legitimate commentary on the state of the U.S. cleantech marketplace: if you want to really do well in cleantech investing in the next several years, you’re going to have to focus a lot of attention overseas.

Consistent with my personal experience, the Craton team noted that the key success factor for their portfolio companies continues to be management quality. Fortunately, they are seeing (as I am) an influx into cleantech of a greater quantity of better talent in the past few years. Of course, this is in part driven by deteriorating economic conditions and opportunities in other sectors of the economy. But, I also sense it’s because many capable people are increasingly drawn to cleantech for other intangible attractions. (I was recently on the phone with an old friend of mine who made a lot of money in real estate and didn’t find it challenging enough – so he’s moving into cleantech. Five years from now, I’m sure this friend of mine will not complain that making money in cleantech wasn’t sufficiently challenging!)

On the whole, it appears that Craton’s first fund is doing generally well, and the firm is beginning to prepare for raising its second fund. The question will be whether Craton’s good performance on paper (no liquidity events yet) will be able to overcome a very tough fund-raising environment. Given their strong relationships in the California marketplace – where cleantech has the most traction of anywhere in the U.S. – Craton’s progress in the coming 12-24 months will be a good barometer of the health of the cleantech investing thesis in the U.S.

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.

Cleantech Boosts Jobs in Specific Regions and Segments

By John Addison (10/7/10)

Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and information technology are all helping the U.S. overcome a severe recession and keep more people from losing their jobs. From our San Francisco roof deck, I am encouraged to see energy efficient homes, solar roofs, and electric buses gliding by. I am also discouraged to see massive ships from Asia sail into the harbor ladened with hundreds of rail cars full of Asian goods, then leave for distant customers with much lighter loads.

As trillion dollar industries are disrupted, he stakes are high for jobs and economies. The U.S. can win or lose in a future that includes energy efficient materials, LED lights, electric cars, high-speed rail, wind power, solar power, smart grids and smart apps.

Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 Details U.S. Growth

As the economy officially pulls out of The Great Recession, clean energy continues to fuel the plans of many cities, states, nations, investors, and companies as they look for the next wave of innovation and growth. In its second annual look at the state of clean-tech jobs in the U.S. and globally, Clean Edge published its Clean Tech Job Trends 2010. The report looks beyond green job evangelism to provide key insights and a sober analysis of the most important employment trends globally. I was particularly interested in my home state; cleantech is particularly important to California’s economic future. The Report states:

“Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley repeats as the top area for cleantech jobs, with Los Angeles second. Even in its challenging economic times, California continues to see fairly robust job activity in clean-tech startups and established players, with the state’s high-tech giants like Cisco, Intel, and Google aggressively expanding their smart-grid initiatives. San Diego (seventh) and Sacramento (15th) give California four cities in the Top 15, but the Golden State faces an uncertain clean-tech future if the state’s voters pass a November ballot measure, Proposition 23, that would suspend the state’s landmark greenhouse gas reduction laws.”

Tesla Motors provides a good example of job creation. In 2012, it plans to reopen a shuttered plant owned that was owned by a Toyota (TM) – General Motors JV. The plant will create about 1,000 jobs as two exciting new electric vehicles roll-out: the Tesla Model S (TSLA) premium sedan with a electric range that far exceeds the Nissan LEAF (NSANY) and Ford (F) Focus Electric; and the new Toyota RAV4 EV, long an SUV favorite of EV enthusiasts. In the new world of global “co-opetition,” Tesla is 2% owned by Toyota and 5% owned by Daimler. The two auto giants admire Tesla’s innovation, first to market speed, and battery-pack technology.

Northern California is also rich with smart grid leaders including Silver Spring Networks, Cisco (CSCO), and EPRI. Solar energy innovators abound including Bright Source, Sun Power (SPWRA), and MiaSole.

Southern California is rich innovators making gasoline and diesel not with petroleum, but with algae, waste, and cellulose. In San Diego’s biotech research center, surrounding the University of California at San Diego and the Salk Institute are over 40 companies working on biofuels from algae. Sapphire Energy and Synthetic Genomics both have received over $100 billion from private equity investors to expand their research and production of algal fuels.

These are a few examples from my home state of California. The Clean Edge report covers exciting opportunities nationwide, the dynamics of U.S. – China competition, and 3 million jobs globally in a variety of billion dollar cleantech sectors. Clean Tech Job Trends 2010 is recommended reading for everyone. The free report can be downloaded atwww.cleanedge.com.

By John Addison, Publisher of the Clean Fleet Report and conference speaker. The author has no positions in the stocks mentioned in this article.

Why I Love Solar, Even Though I’ve Never Bought It

My article last week was entitled Can I Hate the Solar Bill of Rights and Still Love Love Solar?  The comments back ran the gamut, including posters ripping me suggesting I must have oil company ties (to be fair I kind of do) and one asking did someone “pee in my cornflakes” and calling me an “uneducated teabagger”.  But by and large the comments and emails I’ve received agreed that the Solar Bill of Rights as written is not kosher, and supporting my reluctance to sign it.

So I thought I should follow with a short summary of why, despite the costs, the hassles, and the so-called “Solar Bill of Rights”, I love solar and solar technology anyway.

#1  It’s the only love it and leave it, plug and play, solid state, fuel-less, clean, no moving parts engine known to man (that doesn’t include the words Tesla, perpetual, or overunity). And it can scale up OR down.
#2  The largest potential energy resource on the planet, and as any good oilman knows, the only technology that matters is that which is applicable to the biggest honking resources one can get one’s dirty little hands on
#3  It’s got the fastest falling cost curve of any energy thing of any type on the planet
#4  It’s the only distributed generation technology worth a damn, and even if I never buy solar or try to go “off the grid”, I want to know I can tell the government and my energy provider to pound sand (maybe I am a closet teabagger!)
#5  Power with no fuel + no emissions = theoretical heaven on earth
#6  The cleantech sector needs it, and it can make us money
#7  It’s just d#%$ sweet and I like it, for crying out loud!

So Long Live Solar, and Die Solar Bill of Rights!

Neal Dikeman is a partner at cleantech merchant bank Jane Capital Partners LLC, the creative force behind companies in solar, superconductors, fuel cells, and carbon, chief blogger of Cleantechblog.com and Chairman of Cleantech.org, and a partially reformed energy guy.

Following the Money

by Richard T. Stuebi

I get a kick when climate skeptics decry the work of climate scientists by claiming that the scientists are only in it for the money. Get real.

The real money is in opposing climate legislation. Check out this recent posting by Daniel Weiss, Rebecca Lefton and Susan Lyon entitled “Dirty Money” by the Center for American Progress. According to their research, over $500 million was spent within the last two years by large energy corporations (mainly oil companies and electric utilities) on lobbying, much of which to oppose climate legislation. This is more than ten times the amount reportedly spent on lobbying by alternative energy companies. On top of the $500 million spent by companies directly, trade associations generally opposed to clean energy policies are said to have spent almost an additional $300 million on lobbying.

In today’s pay-to-play world, why is it surprising to anyone that U.S. energy policy is so favorable towards maintaining the status quo of fossil fuel dominance over alternative energy and energy efficiency interests?

Richard T. Stuebi is a founding principal of NorTech Energy Enterprise, the advanced energy initiative at NorTech, where he is on loan from The Cleveland Foundation as its Fellow of Energy and Environmental Advancement. He is also a Managing Director in charge of cleantech investment activities at Early Stage Partners, a Cleveland-based venture capital firm.