Here is his post from his Sparklines email newsletter, reprinted with his permission:
Four moments in cleantech time
EY (aka Ernst & Young) hosted its annual Cleantech CEO Forum in Napa this week.
Below is my opening presentation to the 90+ CEOs of cleantech pure-plays and high-level senior executives: "Four moments in cleantech time."
Speaking to a group of cleantech executives in 2014 is exciting, because it is an exciting time for the sector – but when is it not? Boundaries shift, companies come and go, technologies evolve, but history matters.
Let me create a sense of where we are now, and where we may be going, with four moments in cleantech time over the past 60 years.
This is the first moment – the Bell Solar Battery, invented sixty years ago. It is instantly recognizable today as a PV panel and a deep-cycle battery, simultaneously the first of its kind and an archetype. Why use this?
Even in its first year, the technology faced the same challenges it does today: forcing costs down, and efficiency up; deciding on best applications; incorporating storage if needed; choosing to manufacture in-house or through a contract manufacturer.
Just as important as what the tech was, is what it became after lowering costs by orders of magnitude: the prime mover of a distributed energy paradigm, driven by experience curves and innovative business models. Importantly, it was something both profound and easy to underestimate from its small base.
A final 20 years forward, to last week: Tesla’s latest, the dual-motor version of its Model S. I think it is the start to an alternate path to surface transport: all-electric, safe, quiet, very low-maintenance, over-the-air-updated…and with performance better than a supercar (or, perhaps it is a supercar with four doors). It eschews the traditional dealer network, a direct challenge to a very established mode of selling and inventory organisation. It is capable of autopilot; eventually, it will be fully autonomous.
A final thought, spurred on by the dual-motor Tesla. It’s still a puzzle to explain. Read the press, and the comments are "even with the extra weight of a second motor, the car has better performance and longer battery life." Well – the extra motor is only the size of a watermelon! It’s not like grafting another four cylinders onto a big-block V8.
To take it back to the start: there’s a thread connecting the Tesla to the first solar panel. Both are promising, experience curve-driven technologies. They are still a puzzle to some. They are just getting started at scale. The most important tool for thinking of where they will go in the future, is imagination.
©2014 Bloomberg Finance L.P. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.