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October 2008

Clean technology experts bullish for change @ Harvard Club event

Andy Beaupre · October 30th, 2008

There was lots of passion on display at Tuesday’s Clean Technology event at the Harvard Club (disclosure: sponsored by Beaupre and Brodeur Partners).

Marc Gunther, Fortune magazine’s senior writer and sustainability expert opened the session with a talk called “The clean technology revolution: bigger than the Internet?” He said five pivotal forces will make this a reality: science; scale; stimulus, security and generational change. Here are some Gunther sound bites:

  • “Cleantech hasn’t had its Netscape moment yet.”
  • “The science is so compelling it’s hard to turn back.”
  • “This has become personal to them (CEOs). They are, on some level, thinking about their legacies – what kind of world they’re leaving for their children and grandchildren.”
  • “This is the growth sector for America.”

Gunther moderated a panel of frightful cleantech brainpower: Scott Clavenna, CEO of Greentech Media; Nick d’Arbeloff, Executive Director of the N.E. Clean Energy Council; William Huss, adjunct lecturer at Babson and former COO at XENERGY; Paul Maeder, General Partner, Highland Capital Partners.

Highlights from the panelists:

  • The pace of change isn’t fast enough, but New England is off to “a fantastic start.”
  • If Obama is elected, it will be positive for clean technology, “We’ll look back in six months and be amazed.”
  • The revolution will occur via 100,000 “small garages” vs. a Manhattan Project-like effort.
  • We’ll need unprecedented private sector creativity and public sector political power working together like they’ve never done before.
  • Investment and growth for cleantech is markedly different vs. the software industry.
  • The VC industry is ripe for upheaval; a shakeout is looming.

Cleantech VC guru Paul Maeder said “We’re going to have to look at new models of cooperation or we’ll all go the way of the duckbill platypus.”

Nick d’Arbeloff said “Government and policy played no role in the information technology boom, but energy is fundamentally different. The only way to solve our energy problems is to unleash the free market on them, but we also need a government policy foundation.”

Clean technology media pioneer Scott Clavenna said “We lost eight critical years. We need leadership from the top, at the White House. We need our (new) President to say, “This is what we’re going to do” and then stick with it. It’s time for a bold step.”

Former XENERGY COO and current Babson Adjunct Lecturer Bill Huss said companies developing energy efficiency technologies “can’t find people fast enough to hire into the industry.”

Fortune’s Gunther cited several examples illustrating how business is capable of playing a critical role in affecting societal change. “Despite the well-known flaws and problems with corporate America, we can see big and certainly small companies being significant drivers of change.”

Gunther should know. He’s interviewed the likes of Jeff Immelt and Michael Dell and wrote the September 29 cover piece about Hank Paulson. He’s a captivating storyteller, weaving fascinating tales about the impact of business on society. Check out his blog at www.marcgunther.com.

Utility-scale solar power in the spotlight

Andy Beaupre · October 15th, 2008

When I walked the aisles at Solar Power 08 it was salmon-packed-home-bound-up-the-river-time; you literally moved down aisles in slow motion. Like the telecommunications scene two decades ago, consolidation is coming fast to the solar industry. I’ve never seen so many manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) modules; they’re not all going to make it. But it’s not just PV manufacturers here in San Diego, there’s a fully developed ecosystem including utilities, distributors, contractors, installers, architects, consultants and financiers.

The most amazing factoid I’ve heard so far is fresh data published by the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), which co-sponsors the show with the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

SEPA disclosed that utilities are quickly becoming the largest customer for the solar industry. Leading the way is Southern California Edison which has the most solar electric capacity integrated into its power portfolio. Overall capacity exceeds 409 megawatts. Pacific Gas & Electric has the most solar electric capacity on the customer side of the meter with 144+ megawatts. And there are dozens and dozens of other utilities upping the ante.

It’s not a cliche to say we’re only seeing the literal tip of the iceberg. 2008 has seen an unprecedented number of announcements of large solar power projects that include concentrating solar thermal and photovoltaic plants. The scale of activity is massive, over 5,500 projects ranging from 10 to 800 megawatt installations.

Lots and lots of jobs are also being created; over 4.2 million nationally at last count.

As Governor Schwarzenegger said “Solar is everywhere, it’s the future; it can’t be stopped.”

Everybody in San Diego is pretty pumped up this week; encouraging news for a struggling economic time.

Let the sunshine in.

NEWS: Our new clean technology practice launches

Stephen Hodgdon · October 2nd, 2008

Today we launched our new clean technology practice aimed at helping start-ups and established companies gain public support for eco-friendly technologies that will create economic growth, cut energy costs and stave off potential environmental crises.