Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Always On and Clean Tech

It feels like my brain is going to explode. I spent the last couple of days at the Always On Going Green Conference in Boston, and it’s all about clean tech. For me, this is something I’ve been hearing about for sometime…mostly from the perspective that the venture capital world has been throwing lots of money at this space. For me the conference has been a wonderful primer teaching me about state of all things clean tech and I have to admit that I have much to learn. Clean tech, as described by Connecticut Innovations, is anything dealing with the conservation of energy, the preservation and protection of the environment or elimination of harmful waste; all good, but as was mentioned many times today, very expensive goals.

Sitting through the conference it’s been interesting hearing about the regulatory, financial, and consumer issues regarding the expansion of clean tech. I heard about water issues in China (water is one of the top items on China’s long term plan), I heard about wind farm issues here in Massachusetts, and about the challenges of going from having a pilot plant that might cost $25 million and is funded by the VCs to a much larger production plant that has to be funded more traditionally via debt and shareholders’ equity.

I heard from some great young companies such as Black Gold Bio Fuels, 1366 Technologies Inc. and Great Point Energy. I heard that the consumer in a lot of the new electrical issues is playing second fiddle to the commercial/industrial markets (40 percent of electrical demand is taken by consumers, while the commercial/industrial market takes 60 percent), I heard from the Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick say that a crisis can be a wonderful platform for change and I even heard folks talking about something that I was thinking of 15 years ago when I was doing work in Asia in the themed attraction industry (that you have to choose your partners very carefully, aligning yourself with your partner’s goals and not with just your product goals). But I also saw that the clean tech world isn’t doing a particularly good job of telling their story. It was driven home as we talked today about nuclear power and the challenges facing it. The technology is good, clean and renewable, yet if you stopped on the street in Boston and asked 20 folks what they thought of nuclear, 19 of them would probably talk about Three Mile Island which happened in 1979. For nuclear, as for much of the clean tech space, there is a story waiting to be told to the American people and that’s a story that most American’s want to hear.

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