Happy new year everyone. As we reflect upon the year now past us, it’s also that time of year to look ahead.
- Cleantech venture capital may never again reach the heights (at least in terms of dollars invested) of 2011. As Kachan notes, and I concur, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that capital-inefficient deals that used to attract VC dollars won’t so much in the future. And, it means that a lot of ineffective cleantech VCs will be washed out of the sector. Moreover, other sources of private finance – especially corporates, but also family offices and sovereign wealth funds – will step in.
- The solar and wind sectors face increasing challenges because grid-scale energy storage technologies aren’t coming to the fore as expected. Dispatchable power sources with lower emissions will gain ground. This is especially the case for natural gas, but Kachan controversially also sees a growing role for new nuclear technologies.
- Clean-coal technologies become less oxymoronic. Great quote here: “No, clean coal doesn’t exist today. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.” Kachan claims to have visibility on some promising new technologies in this realm. Personally, I’m a little skeptical – I’ve heard such things many times before – but I’d be glad to be wrong.
- Significant improvements are afoot for internal combustion engines, further stifling the advent of electric vehicles (EVs). I agree with Kachan that a lot is being undertaken to improve the old piston engine. Those innovations being pursued by tier one auto suppliers have a fair chance of quick adoption. However, a lot of the potential breakthroughs I’ve heard about are being explored by venture-backed start-ups or garage-tinkerers, and I am less optimistic than Kachan appears to be that these companies can make large inroads into the incredibly demanding automotive supply chains within a year.
- Mining and agriculture will become more important segments of the cleantech sector. Especially with respect to agriculture, I agree with Kachan wholeheartedly, as increased corporate venture activity is beginning to burble in such stalwarts as Monsanto (NYSE: MON), Syngenta (NYSE: SYT), and Cargill.
Though I haven’t gone back to review his track record, Kachan claims a good history of prognostication from recent years. I think many of his views for the near-future are justified and hence likely (if not for 2013 then more generally for the next couple of years), but he’s thrown in enough unconventional wisdom to make things interesting.
Let’s make 2013 a good one, shall we?