Entries by Richard T. Stuebi

How To Fail In Cleantech

The transition to cleantech – some would call it a revolution – inevitably entails change, which implies risk.  In turn, this implies that some things will fail. We’ve already seen more than a few failures, and we’ll no doubt see many more. As long as the successes outweigh the failures, that’s all that ultimately matters.  […]

Energy Cache: Avoiding Cleantech’s Catch-22

Recently, I came across this very interesting thought-piece, “Cleantech Marketing Isn’t IT Marketing”, written by Aaron Fike, the founder and CEO of Energy Cache. Energy Cache has developed a rather unusual energy storage technology.  As described here, Energy Cache is offering a solution that is a hybrid of ski-lifts and mining technology, hauling gravel in […]

A Crystal Ball for 2013

Happy new year everyone.  As we reflect upon the year now past us, it’s also that time of year to look ahead. For the cleantech sector, Dallas Kachan from Kachan & Co. recently put his neck on the line with his “Predictions for Cleantech in 2013”.  It’s a good read, well-reasoned.  The sound-bite version: Cleantech […]

A Dose of Lithium

For those who want an overview of the current state of the lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery sector, the fall 2012 issue of Batteries International is just the thing. It’s not a pretty picture that’s painted.  Beyond the well-publicized bankruptcies of A123 and Ener1, the general sentiment espoused is that players in the Li-ion sector face tough […]

Chicago: Battery Central

At the end of November, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it had selected Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago to host the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), and bestowed upon it a $120 million grant over 5 years, alongside a $35 million commitment for a new 45,000 square foot facility from […]

Open Letter, Closed Minds

Last week, 129 signatories sent an open letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, that said in part: “Current scientific knowledge does not substantiate your assertions” recently made that climate change is causing more extreme weather events (such as last month’s disastrous Hurricane Sandy), and that the cost of continued inaction […]

Betting on Black Swans

The phrase “Black Swan” was coined in the book of the same name by author Nassim Taleb to describe an event that is hugely important and influential that was not anticipated but yet in retrospect could have been. September 11, 2001 is a classic example of a Black Swan.  It was only a failure of […]

The Deeper Meaning of Sandy

Watching the video feeds from the New York and New Jersey areas in the wake of Sandy reminded me of the images seven years ago from New Orleans being decimated by Katrina. Other than perhaps providing a warning not to call a particular geographic area “New” anything, what do these storms tell us? Like Katrina […]

The Proper Role of Government in Energy

Since tomorrow’s election is heavily focused on the appropriate scope of government, I have spent a little time lately reflecting upon the proper role of government in the energy sector. In regards to the U.S. Presidential race, I will refrain from analyzing the respective policies and stances concerning energy of the two candidates.  This recent […]

A123 Goes 3,2,1,0

On October 12, the lithium-ion battery maker A123 (NASDAQ: AONE) essentially ran the white flag up the pole:  filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, agreeing to sell its automotive-related assets to Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI), and fielding bids for its grid-storage business. This is a big come-down from a company that not long ago had a […]

Cleantech VC Etiquette

Being a venture capitalist is not easy.  Being a cleantech venture capitalist is especially not easy. I remember Ira Ehrenpreis of Technology Partners, one of the deans of the cleantech VC community, commenting archly several years ago at one of the too-many cleantech investment conferences:  “We need a poster child for cleantech venture capital success.”  Well, generally speaking, […]

San Diego’s Smart Grid

I have to admit:  it’s hard for me to be terribly enthusiastic about electric utilities.  I know a fair bit about them; by my count, I’ve served about ten utilities in various consulting roles during my career. While generalizations are always dangerous, for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that electric utilities […]

Big Data Meets Big Energy

One of the most hyped trends in high-tech is “big data”:  the accumulation, integration, synthesis and interpretation of enormous amounts of data from disparate sources. Big data is being touted not only as a driver of increased efficiencies for companies, but also increased revenues:  as customers indicate or reveal their preferences through their behavior and […]

Fifty Years

Earlier this month, I turned 50 years old.  Such milestones are natural occasions for reflection. Beyond recalling many of the phases and individual episodes of my life, my reflection included a consideration of how the world had changed in the 50 years in which I had lived.  And, naturally, given my profession, I pondered what it would have […]

The Advent of SPS Policy?

In the cleantech sector, pretty much everyone knows the acronym RPS, for Renewable Portfolio Standards.  Since the first RPS policy in the U.S., implemented in Iowa in the late 1990s, 30 states have passed similar policies to promote the installation of renewable energy projects and expedite penetration (overcoming the ambivalence or outright opposition of utilities) of renewable […]

Holy Grail 12.0: Is Our Quest At Its End?

I’ve been working with new energy inventions and their creators for almost 15 years now.  I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a new technology described as “the Holy Grail”:  solving all of the world’s problems forever. Well, here’s the newest one using the Holy Grail cliche:  a supposedly carbon-neutral method of using microbes […]

Cold Facts About Air Conditioning

There may be people who understand the big picture about air conditioning better than Stan Cox, but the list is surely a short one. Cox, who wrote Losing Our Cool:  Uncomfortable Truths About Our Air-Conditioned World, has also just written an excellent brief article called “Cooling A Warming Planet:  A Global Air Conditioning Surge”.  In […]

Fighting the Military on Energy Strategy

For several years, the U.S. military has been one of the most active proponents and early-adopters of renewable energy and alternative fuels, with their Operational Energy Strategy.  Why?  Several reasons: 1.  Fuel delivered to the remote front-lines such as in Afghanistan for use in power generation and transportation has an “all-in” cost of $400/gallon.  Any energy source […]