The clean energy industry is gaining traction worldwide, driving competition on a global scale among businesses and countries. Clean energy sectors are growing as innovation, emerging technologies and investment are driving down the cost of renewables, such as solar and wind.
A recent research by the Pew Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trusts titled “Innovate, Manufacture, Compete: A Clean Energy Action Plan” was developed for public information and education.
The report project that clean energy will grow in the next decade all over the world. However, the analysts point to concerns in regards to the U.S. Cleantech progress and disclose the following: “Once a world leader in innovation and manufacturing of clean energy technologies, the United States now faces considerable competitive challenges. It lags other nations on a variety of measures, including clean energy deployment and manufacturing. Even its long-standing lead in innovation is at risk.”
As we begin 2013, U.S. deployments are behind other world regions, such as Europe and Asia. According to the report authors, “America is no longer the clean energy superpower”, and “The future of government policy is now uncertain and weighs heavily on U.S. industry and its competitive prospects”.
On the inaugural address last week, President Obama sent a clear message that climate change will be high up on his second-term agenda. He said,"The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise." — President Barack Obama, Inaugural Address, Jan. 21, 2013
The common assumption that educating more people on climate change impacts, providing new facts and information from credible sources, and referring to recent natural disasters and storms will influence action - has not proved itself yet. Social behavior research has demonstrated that people don’t act in a rational manner when it comes to purchasing decisions and making changes in their lifestyles. If we take healthy eating habits for example, we all know that a few calories-dense-low-nutrient-pastries a day are bad for us, many people still eat them and disregard credible evidence in regards to health concerns. A recent study published in Nature Climate Change shows that expanding climate literacy might not alter climate skepticism. An increase in climate change knowledge does not necessarily change people’s opinion on the topic. The research finds that providing scientific evidence in regards to global warming can be ineffective in some communities (see a summary on Grist.org – a environmental news and commentary online magazine here or check the link http://grist.org/climate-skeptics/once-again-with-feeling-more-science-will-not-cure-climate-skepticism/)
Energy inefficiency is never a good practice. When it comes to changing energy consumption behavior, we need to understand what motivates people and design the most effective programs to induce change. Research in the past few years has clearly demonstrated repeatedly that there are many actions we can take to become more energy efficient (and save money). By carrying out simple and inexpensive changes that do not require any investment, however rely on attitude change ("Turn off equipment, when not in use"), we can reduce electricity usage. Purchasing and consumption patterns indicate that money is not the only motivator for consumption. When it comes to energy, users are interested in becoming more engaged and businesses need to find the ways that work well for all stakeholders, design successful programs to win over customers and use these as a launch pad for effective engagement.
Energy efficiency encompasses more than just technologies. In the past decade, initial phase investments centered on hardware and products. The second phase has been more about ICT (Information Communication Technologies), software and management tools. The third phase of investment is focused on optimization and automation. There is one more area of growth: financing models to fund various sources of energy, and an existing example is the popularity of 3rd party solar financing, which has recently propelled solar installation in commercial and residential U.S. markets.
Investing in renewable energy and Cleantech is different than other industries. Investors are anxious after numerous Green-tech failures and fragile public exits. From the investors’ point of view, Cleantech presents several issues:
-Early stage versus late stage: longer term investments are needed in the U.S.
- Payback periods are longer than software-based or ICT developments.
- Standards and policy are also behind or inconsistent.
- Regulatory incentives are varied from region to region/state to state. Access to government funding varies, which can affect the potential resources to innovate and R&D, especially in emerging markets.
- Global markets and the role of local and international syndicated partners with value added networks and skills. Strategically, it is good to create alliances with local venture financing, although markets may be worldwide.
- Global markets present cultural differences and sensitivities.
- It is a challenge to create a baseline to compare real estate.
- Capital-intensive investments (such as in infrastructure) versus soft investments.
It's impossible to know exactly what 2013 will bring, but advancements in policy and in setting standards will continue to spur and shape development, allow new technologies and a new way of thinking. With the increase in adoption of home networking and cloud devices, ICT (Information Communication Technologies) and software developments, as well as comprehensive security upgrades – there is a brighter vision of the future of Cleantech.
Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2013 - March 18-20, 2013 - San Francisco, California
'Sustainability Meets Innovation: Reigniting Cleantech'
Corporate business leaders worldwide are learning how environmental innovation will help drive future profitability. The Cleantech Forum 2013, Sustainability Meets Innovation: Reigniting Cleantech, will address environmental sustainability future and the investment landscape by convening Cleantech’s prominent investors, entrepreneurs, strategists, sustainability leaders, and technology players.
The Forum will showcase the sector’s most important startups, encourage open conversations, and create opportunities for participants to get to know each other, the influencers, and the issues and that will reshape their worlds.
Registration: Click here.