29 October 2010

Marathon Men (and Women): TNC Running for Nature

TNC protects places like Raja Ampat, Indonesia

I was twice reminded of my old pals at The Nature Conservancy this week.

The first was when the host of a panel I was moderating told me of the passing of a Conservancy legend, Dennis Wolkoff, and the second was when I learned about a group of dedicated Conservancy staff and friends, including CEO Mark Tercek, who were running the New York City Marathon next weekend.

Dennis passed away last Spring, and yet I was only just now hearing about it -- and from a total stranger. How did that happen? I wasn't close to Dennis, but we both shared a passion for the Boston Red Sox and I got to use his Fenway seats on several occasions.

Still, it stung that I'd gotten so far away over the years that I had to hear about his passing seven months after it happened.

My fondest memory of Dennis was beating him in a negotiations workshop a decade ago. Dennis very graciously acknowledged his defeat and, although it was only a game, I could never forget my victory over a master deal maker. His generosity of spirit was in strong evidence that day, as it was every day with his colleagues and with anyone with whom he came in contact.

That's the spirit of the Conservancy; it's a giving spirit.

Which is why it is no surprise that a group of Conservancy staff and friends, including CEO Mark Tercek, are giving of themselves by running to raise funds for the Conservancy's critical work protecting the world's most important lands and waters.

I hope you'll join me in supporting their efforts and cheer them on as they hit the wilds of New York City's streets on November 7th.  My support is in memory of Dennis Wolkoff.

You can donate to the team at nature.org.

Enhanced by Zemanta

28 October 2010

Why We Deserve to Lose (The Race for a New Green Economy)

No offenths, as the 4-year-old son of a friend used to say before offering a critical observation, but we suck.

And we deserve to lose the race for a new green economy to China. Why?  Because we have systematically destroyed our opportunity to lead through bad decisions and illusion, sold ourselves to China, and blanketed ourselves with cheap and toxic products bought from China.

(No wonder the Chinese are laughing at us in this political ad Joshua Brown wrote about on The ReformedBroker.com this weekend. Of course, as Josh pointed out in his post, China needs us as much as we need them.)

Then there is this disturbing item from an editorial in the New York Times this morning: "Until a little over three weeks ago, the Interior Department had approved more than 73,000 oil and gas leases since 2005, but only one offshore wind energy project and not a single solar project."

Don't get me wrong, I support domestic oil and gas development -- both offshore and on land -- as long as it is conducted using the highest environmental standards and safeguards.

But why has it so long to approve a project like Cape Wind off the coast of Massachusetts while oil and gas leasing has accelerated?

Two things have been happening since 2005 when Congress directed the US Department of the Interior "to approve enough wind, solar and other projects on public land to produce 10,000 megawatts by 2015 — enough to heat, cool and light five million homes."

The first is the so-called "Haliburton loophole," which exempted natural gas drilling companies from the Clean Water Act after the companies raised a "frackas" over having to disclose chemicals used in their fracking process.  They claimed it would endanger their proprietary formulas.

A September 2009 report issued by the General Accountability Office (GAO) found that 28 percent of drilling permits issued from 2006 to 2008 (about 6,100 applications) were expedited by the Bureau of Land Management through this categorical exclusion.

Here's an interesting list of exemptions the oil and gas industry currently enjoys from the Federal government compiled by the Environmental Working Group.  Any one of these can help accelerate the approval process.

By comparison, the Cape Wind project was subject to meeting a plethora of state and federal agency standards and required almost nine years to get a final permit.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, to his credit, has approved six large-scale solar power projects on public lands in California and Nevada, and has moved to close the loophole and reform the process for reviewing all projects on lands under Federal management.

But renewables also continue to be subjected to unclear and inconsistent signals in terms of subsidies and tax credits, which makes investors and project developers wary of going too deep.

As the Times editorial asserts, "When the production tax credit expired at the end of 2003, development of newly installed wind capacity fell from 1,687 megawatts to less than 400 the following year."

Meanwhile, as an Environmental Law Institute study last year illustrated, fossil fuel development benefited from approximately $72 billion in subsidies and tax credits over a seven-year period (2002-2008), while subsidies for renewable fuels totaled only $29 billion overt the same period.

This kind of unlevel playing field and unfair advantage is just another reason why we have already lost the race with China and others on renewables. 

In fact, we better stop thinking about it as a race at all and begin thinking about how best to cooperate with our competitors before we are left out of this new economic opportunity altogether.

Enhanced by Zemanta

27 October 2010

Solar Generation 2010 Report Calls for "Grid Parity" by 2015

Solar PV to have its day in the sun?
Solar photovoltaic (PV) could account for 5 percent of global power demand by 2020, and up to 9 percent by 2030, according to a global solar photovoltaic outlook by the European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) and Greenpeace International.

"The 'Solar Generation 2010' report also projects investments in solar photovoltaic (PV) to double from 35 billion euros today to 70 billion euros in 2015. At the same time, costs for PV systems are expected to almost halve (-40 percent).

"As a result, PV systems will be able to compete with current electricity costs for households in most industrialized countries. This so-called 'grid parity' will change the PV market significantly."

You can download the report's executive summary here: Solar Generation 2010 (PDF)

Enhanced by Zemanta

25 October 2010

Green Skeptic on StockTwits Talking LEDs and More

Leigh Drogen of StockTwits.tv and I chatted about LEDs, $CREE, and $VECO as the latter reported earnings today. And we hit on $ENOC and EVs as well. (Warning: I do a terrible impression of Count Floyd's Monster Horror Chiller Theatre from the old SCTV to open the show.)

Watch it here:

Or, if your browser doesn't support, you can check it out here at Stocktwits.tv

Enhanced by Zemanta

22 October 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 10/22/10

Sign of Good Things to Come in Philly
My apologies for neglecting the LinkFest last week.  Will try to make up for it here.

First up, Jeff St. John of GigaOm with a story on GridPoint, "the smart grid company with a lot of funding, and a lot to prove," replacing its CEO: GridPoint.

Andrew Winston in Harvard Business Review wrote about Google Doing What the Government Can't: .

And more on Google's shift from trying to find cleantech breakthroughs to financing mega projects.

In Philly, Viridity Energy got some props in the Inquirer for its efforts to reshape how firms buy and use electricity.

I was at the Cleantech Group's Cleantech Forum New York, where it announced the 2010 Global Cleantech 100.

Tom Friedman of The New York Times wrote about the case for energy technology investment,while Teryn Norris asked "Can Conservatives Support Clean Energy Innovation Policy?" in The Energy Collective.

CleanTechies blog featured an interview with Jigar Shah, CEO of the Carbon War Room on Why Entrepreneurs Are Flocking to Energy.

On the Sustainability front, Tilde Herrera in GreenBiz.com listed 10 Things to Know About Engaging Suppliers for Green Programs.

And finally, one of the things that's been keeping me busy this week, is the US launch of one my clients here in Philadelphia: Mark Group home-energy firm to locate in Philadelphia Navy Yard.
Enhanced by Zemanta

21 October 2010

Veolia Trying to Accelerate Cleantech Solutions

Philippe Martin of Veolia Environnement
I sat down last week with Philippe Martin and Robert Bozza of Veolia (NYSE:VE) at the Cleantech Forum New York last week to learn more about the company's Innovation Accelerator.

Veolia Environnement is a multinational French company with origins in the national water company established by Napoleon III.

You may remember them as part of Vivendi, from which they spun off in 2000, later being renamed Veolia.

Veolia operates utility and public transportation businesses -- everything from drinking water to waste management services; from heating and air conditioning to rail and road passenger transportation systems.

The company had $49.8 billion in revenue last year and operates in 74 countries with 313,000 employees worldwide.
Philippe Martin, senior vice president for research and innovation, explains that the company faces environmental challenges in the field every day and needs the most relevant and innovative technologies. They are constantly searching for new innovations from within and, now, with its innovation accelerator, outside the company.

"We have the ability as an operating company to deploy technology and help companies scale their technology and get to market," Martin says. "We are focused on incubation and acceleration."

Robert Bozza heads up the Veolia Innovation Accelerator (VIA). The accelerator funnels creative solutions into a network of sorts to which Veolia will lend its expertise and deployment capabilities.

And the company promises to move innovation quickly through the incubation period – to accelerate the technologies to market.

"We have made a 1-4-12 promise," Martin and Bozza explain. "Review a company's application in one week. Perform technical analysis of the technology in four weeks. And sign an agreement with the company within 12 weeks. It is designed to move fast and be more efficient than a corporate fund."

While not a fund, VIA can invest in a participating company's technology. "We think this is more efficient than a fund," says Martin. "We are not in the business of creating solutions, only deploying the best."

Thus far, they have 150 applicants under review, each falling within one scope of the company's focus areas: water, waste, and energy. Some have come through traditional routes, such as through venture capital or other investors, but they are also finding great response to the accelerator's web application.

"We're seeing about 50/50 from investors and the web," Martin explains. "Before there were too many channels into the company. Now there is one funnel."

And the companies are coming from both sides of the pond.

One such company is California-based NanoH2O, which provides membranes that leverage nanotechnology to improve desalination. NanoH2O is partnering with Veolia Water Solutions & Technologies to jointly explore new regions for seawater desalination plants in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and Australia.

"Working with Veolia," said Jeff Green, founder and CEO of NanoH2O, "will accelerate the adoption of NanoH2O's nanocomposite reverse osmosis membranes worldwide to change the fundamental economics of desalination."

Once selected, companies can enter into joint research projects with Veolia or its subsidiaries (such as with NanoH2O) or use the company to deploy their technology in the field.

And what about intellectual property?

"While there may be some shared IP in joint research projects, it is otherwise IP retained by company/entrepreneur," Martin asserted. "We are not a technology company, so we are not going to be a competitor."

"New technology leverages our strengths," added Bozza.

Currently, Veolia is looking for companies with an emphasis on biotech applied to their core businesses (water, waste, energy, transport), sensors – which are going to be very important, energy conservation and efficiency; and real-time water quality monitoring solutions.

The companies selected will be announced at the Cleantech Group's San Francisco Forum next March.

Enhanced by Zemanta

20 October 2010

World Statistics Day Energy Quiz

Paul Kedrosky pointed me to this energy statistics quiz from the Energy Information Administration.

I scored 18/20, missing on questions 3 & 4 (duoh!).

See how well you do: US Energy Information Administration Energy Quiz

Did you know there was such a thing as World Statistics Day?
Enhanced by Zemanta

19 October 2010

Tendril Acquires GroundedPower, Raises $23 Million

Image representing Tendril as depicted in Crun...

Tendril announced today that it has purchased Massachusetts-based GroundedPower and secured an additional $23 million in investment.

The strategic acquisition and additional investment will accelerate the development and roll-out of Tendril’s comprehensive end-to-end energy management and consumer engagement solution for energy providers.

Here is how Tendril CEO, Adrian Tuck, describes the acquisition:

Additional details can be found at www.tendrilinc.com/groundedpower/

Enhanced by Zemanta

Missing GridWeek, But Staying on Top Via Twitter

I'm missing GridWeek in DC this week because of some compelling work with a new VerdeStrategy client that has a big announcement later this week.  But I'm able to catch up and keep tabs on what's happening via friends who are there and the hashtag feature on Twitter: #GridWeek.

Here's a sample screenshot:

Pretty cool that you can almost be there when you can't be there...

Enhanced by Zemanta

15 October 2010

My Interview with Sheeraz Haji of Cleantech Group

Sheeraz Haji of Cleantech Group
I sat down the other day with Sheeraz Haji, President of Cleantech Group, which was hosting its Cleantech Forum New York this week.

Haji has been in his position for almost two years after a stint at McKinsey and a few successful software startups. He came to Cleantech Group because he saw an opportunity to "take a great brand and transform it into the leading market research firm on cleantech innovation."

But his interest in the environment goes back to his childhood. His father worked for World Bank in various developing countries, which gave the young Sheeraz some direct, personal experience with environmental issues. Water was a particular concern.

"I went to go swimming in a lagoon in Cote d’Ivoire (Africa)," Sheeraz says. "But my father said to me, 'You don't want to swim in there; that water's dirty, it'll make you sick.' I looked at the other kids, local kids splashing around in the water and responded, 'But there are children swimming in there…' That opened my eyes."

Water is one of the subsectors that Cleantech Group tracks, and the firm has a partnership with the US EPA to map innovation across the water sector. They also have a research partnership with the US Department of Energy on smart grid solutions. In addition, the firm provides data, research, and advisory services to companies and investors to need such information to make business and investment decisions.

What challenges are you seeing for the cleantech sector?

"Financing. Financing is still an issue. We're hearing that throughout the conference."

What about all that government funding? Was the US government's stimulus not successful?

"I think the stimulus package has been successful considering how complicated it is. Matt Rogers had a tough job; the government was in a tough spot. They did it fairly, I think, as fairly as possible. Of course there are critics. And I understand where they are coming from. Government has a big role to play, not just in money, but in providing a policy framework to inspire innovation."

What issues are out there looming?

"Water. Water is a huge global issue, which is why we're focusing on it here. It has been ignored when compared to the scale of the challenge."

Can you share some trends you're seeing?

"In our latest research, transportation received the most investor money. EVs, of course, but also things like the "ZipCar for China" -- eHi Car Service of Shanghai; EcoMotors; and car-sharing in general. ZipCar is a really strong model and brand.

"Resource sharing in general. How can you get more energy efficient than sharing office space or even personal cars. I mean, why shouldn't someone get some use out of my Prius while I'm not using it, as long as it's available the 3 days a year I'm actually home.

"More efficient internal combustion engines are a still in demand; we shouldn't ignore ICEs. Fleet vehicles are a huge opportunity, too. There are still a lot of opportunities to conserve less.

"Control systems; all sorts of controls HVAC, lighting, anything in building operation and performance."

We can't talk about electric vehicles (EVs) without talking about batteries. What are you seeing in terms of batteries, specifically for the EV market?

"No one has figured out the answer to batteries for EVs. We're just not there. I'm skeptical of battery swapping technology; I mean: will the public go for it? And will it help resolve the 'range anxiety' dilemma? People are afraid they'll run out of charge while out driving. I really think charging will have to mimic the gas station-style infrastructure."

That's a very capital intensive proposition.

"It is, but that's not the same in emerging markets, where they don't already have the infrastructure set up and people aren't already tied to their cars. You look at China and India. It's different in emerging markets. Where electric motorcycles might be a good place to start; we looked at electric motorcycles and thought it makes sense in China."

What about China? Any thoughts on the big green push there?

"I've just returned from there. There was a very positive vibe in Tianjin. They are embracing the Eco-City concept there. And you can see why: the demand, the need. It's real. And companies there tell me there are few capital constraints. Really, it is a can do -- and will do -- attitude."

Any thoughts on the cleantech IPO market?

"It's going to be an interesting place to watch. Amyris is performing. Brightsource could be one to watch. Everyone is waiting for Silver Spring Network to go public, of course, but smart grid deployment has been so slow. The IPO market will be pretty interesting. I'm optimistic about it."

What do you say to people (and I've heard a few VCs take this stance) who say that cleantech is too capital intensive to make it worth investing in? That we need more capital efficient opportunities to invest in.

"Cleantech has a host of segments and sub-segments; some are capital intensive; some are more capital efficient. I actually think there are too many people chasing capital efficient plays and that there is real opportunity in bigger, more capital intensive companies, which can still be successful. You can still build a big successful company even if it takes a lot of cash to build it."

What's next for Cleantech Group?

"Three things:

1) Investing in our research in 5 key areas: smart grid, energy efficiency, transportation, waste, and water.
2) Launching our water research series at our 1st ever water event: Nov 3-4 in LA: Water Research Series
3) Continued expansion in Asia (upcoming research projects and events in India, Korea, and China)."

For more on Cleantech Group, their research, and events: cleantech.com

Related articles
Enhanced by Zemanta

14 October 2010

CA Considers Feed-in-Tariff: Green Skeptic on FOX Business

I was on FOX Business with Varney & Co this morning, trying to set the record straight on Feed-in-Tariffs (and why I don't like them: it's NOT about the money). It was a lively discussion -- and Stuart revealed that he has a wind turbine on his farm in New Zealand that is not only generating power, but some NZDollahs too.

Here is a video of the hit:

And for those who can't see the viewer in your browser, a link: GS on FOXBiz
Enhanced by Zemanta

08 October 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 10/08/10

John & Yoko @ Cafe LaFortuna 1980 (watercolor by SEA)
It's Friday again.  A busy week for me, which has prevented me from posting as much as I'd like.  (But busy is good.)

Here are the links that caught The Green Skeptic's eye this week:

A Great piece on VC Vinod Khosla in The New York Times on using capitalism to help the poor via investments like SKS Microfinance.

Speaking of VCs, one of our favorite VC-bloggers, Fred Wilson, "On takers and makers."  

Two other fav VC-bloggers, Roger Ehrenberg and Alex Taussig, had their posts repubbed in Fortune Magazine's web site: The Rebirth of VC (Really!) and Will Solar in 2011 Look Like Automobiles in 1911?

Speaking of solar, after much debate and a failed attempt to interest President Obama in Jimmy Carter's old solar panels, the White House says it will Go Solar.

More solar fun this week as SunPower initiated corporate carbon footprint reporting:   A first for a solar power company.

One of our favorite cleantech journalists, Yoni Cohen, writes about "The Lessons Veteran [Cleantech] Investors Have Learned."

And finally, from Business Insider, 19 Facts About The Deindustrialization Of America That Will Make You Weep.

Okay, okay, that's just too depressing to stop there, so on a lighter note, here is poet Paul Muldoon's interview in The Economist: Q&A with Paul Muldoon

Have a great weekend. And happy birthday John Lennon (who would have been 70 tomorrow).

Enhanced by Zemanta

06 October 2010

Cleantech Jobs Race is Heating Up Globally

If you had to guess which US cities were among the top metropolitan areas for cleantech jobs, what would you say?

Today, Clean Edge, a leading research organization for the sector, released its second annual look at the state of cleantech jobs in the US and globally.

Among the leaders were California's geographic hubs around the Bay Area (1), Los Angeles (2); Greater San Diego (7), and Sacramento (15). No surprises there, really, as California has led the way in investment in renewable energy for some time. The Greater Boston area bumped up to #3, while New York-New Jersey and the Denver area rounded out the top 5.

Clean Edge also examines China's meteoric rise in the cleantech sector and offers the most comprehensive study of media clean-tech job compensation levels.

“China has risen from clean-energy neophyte to global clean-energy powerhouse over the past five years,” says Ron Pernick, cofounder and managing director of Clean Edge.

“China is now home to six of the top 10 global clean-tech pure-play employers, up from just three a year earlier,” Pernick says.  “China has become the country to watch, analyze, and, at times, emulate. Ignoring China’s clean-tech ambitions and activities puts one’s own clean-tech initiatives at great peril.” 

The full report can be downloaded at CleanEdge.com

Enhanced by Zemanta

01 October 2010

Green Skeptic Friday LinkFest - 10/01/10

The Cupcake Lady's Truck. (from MessyandPicky.com)
Welcome October -- and the 4th Quarter. Time to get moving and winning. Hope you are.

Here are a few stories that caught The Green Skeptic's eye this week:

According to Earth2Tech cleantech investing is not working for most investors, alas.

The Washington Post shared some lessons from Philadelphia's Cupcake Lady from Cupcake Lady.
A123 Systems to be first to prove cleantech can produce billion-dollar corporation's in New England? AONE
More on batteries and electric vehicles in particular: Electric vehicle collaboration: Better Place and GE to partner on battery financing, tech development and more.
How about wireless charging? WiTricity announces 1st big auto industry partner for wireless car charging and raised $15.5M. WiTricity

Toward Demand Response 2.0 from Greentech Media: DR 2.0

Have a great weekend everybody.

Enhanced by Zemanta