The Clean Energy Economy  

Posted by Big Gav in

Technology Review has a post on the benefits and challenges facing a new clean energy economy - The Clean Energy Economy: A New Industrial Revolution Rising From Challenging Times.

In the last five years, many venture capitalists (myself included) have committed to backing entrepreneurs who aspire to build the next generation of clean energy companies that will endure. Thousands of companies have formed to harness alternative forms of energy like wind, solar and biofuels; and to reduce man's carbon footprint. Billions of dollars have been poured into this fledgling entrepreneurial ecosystem with the vision of creating significant wealth, millions of jobs, and energy security for our nation.

When the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was passed, entrepreneurs focused on the communications sector, and within a decade companies like Google, Yahoo and EBay became household names and changes heretofore unseen since the Industrial Revolution occurred. It's time for another Industrial Revolution, fueled by clean energy.

Despite the capital-intensive nature of clean energy companies, the nation's entrepreneurial ecosystem is committed to building a clean energy economy for three primary reasons:

1) a strong and growing belief that concern over climate change and increasing energy demand from emerging economies have created a long term opportunity for clean energy innovation;

2) a conviction that technology and business innovation can reduce our carbon footprint and produce viable alternative energy sources at scale; and

3) the development of a favorable U.S. policy framework at the federal and state level, that has attracted large scale private funding to build the next generation of infrastructure.

However, I submit that the continued development of our clean energy economy is now at risk with the advent of the economic crisis. Large financial institutions that had begun to finance the commercialization of clean energy technologies have suddenly lost their capacity to do so. Chief executive officers of emerging clean energy companies now have genuine fears as to whether enough capital will be available to fuel their growth. Furthermore, the slowdown of emerging economies as well as a dramatic reduction in the price of oil further hinders the situation. Investors and entrepreneurs alike are forced to reconsider funding this sector, worried that this may lead to another false start akin to the setback in the early 1980s.

The newly elected administration must show its full resolve and partner with the entrepreneurial ecosystem by reinforcing our national commitment to achieve energy independence and curb global warming. Swift and comprehensive action is required.

First, the incoming administration must make a significant financial commitment towards research and development of clean energy technologies. ...

Second, the Obama administration must develop a comprehensive national policy framework to build and adopt alternative energy solutions. We need a national cap and trade legislation; an aggressive renewable portfolio standard to reduce our dependence on oil and drive the adoption of all forms of clean alternative energy; and energy efficiency programs through regulations and incentives for utilities that can increase the energy productivity of our nation. ...

Finally, the administration needs to have an unbiased strategy for lending its financial support to this sector. The federal government shouldn't be in the business of picking technology winners. Instead, it should lend support to all sustainable clean alternative technologies that have a roadmap to economic viability without any subsidies.

2 comments

Anonymous   says 9:30 AM

Big Gav I think that we have a long way to go with regards to reaching maturity for our market segment. This is a good thing. You cited Google, Yahoo etc but those companies were a manifestation of the primary technology and the same phenomena will occur in the clean energy field with regards to spin off industries.
There is a host of industries that can spin off of a cheap reliable source of clean energy and water. This is not only smart for Americans to invest in its own infrastructure but more importantly to keep those petro dollars from leaving the United States bound for countries who hate us. The only drawback is that at the end of the day we are left with a planet with clean air and water!

Sure - there is a long way to go and we are nowhere near maturity.

Its important to keep stating what the goals are - clean, cheap, abundant energy from secure, renewable sources.

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