Very much enjoyed attending the MIT Energy Conference
this past weekend.
It has become the best of all the student-run conferences on energy technology, attracting attendees from all over the world, and is also one of the better networking opportunities for cleantech VCs on the east coast. They always seem to get some interesting speakers (last year it was Jeff Immelt
, this year John Doerr
and Jim Rogers
), and hundreds of attendees.
Doerr gave his usual stump speech (receiving some good natured ribbing later by Rogers and Bob Metcalfe
), mixing some inspirational thoughts, some examples from Kleiner's own greentech activity, and some plain talk during Q&A. For example: over the past 3 years, Kleiner's seen 1,500 plans, met with 150 entrepreneurs, done 50 visits to research labs, and put $250mm into more than 30 startups. The foci are "the 3 C's: Cars, Coal and Conservation." Fisker, Bloom Energy ("It's been seven years so far, and I think it will be 9 until they are fully commercialized"), Miasole, Amyris and RecycleBank were all highlighted, as was California's AB32. [as always, note that yours truly would make a terrible journalist and likely got quotes wrong]
Some of the best moments came during Q&A:
- "Clearly we need a national cap-and-trade for greenhouse gases."
- Refering to the fact that federal government R&D into clean energy per year is less than one single day of Exxon's revenues: "These numbers are so low, they're almost criminal."
- In response to the inevitable "bubble" question: "We do not have overinvestment against the scale of the problem."
- In response to a question about how to make it profitable to stop deforestation and agriculture-related GHG emissions: "I don't know."
Later, Jim Rogers of Duke Energy gave a highly entertaining talk (after a hilarious intro by MIT's Ernie Moniz
-- former ruggers out there will be amused to learn Rogers is a former hooker
) on the challenges facing Duke while managing the challenges he fully acknowledged face us on climate change. What came through loud and clear was Rogers' commitment to energy efficiency as a primary energy source -- he went so far as to argue that "decoupling" policies are not enough because they only make the utility ambivalent about whether to go with energy efficiency efforts or energy generation capacity in order to satisfy growth in demand, and so instead utilities should be able to treat efficiency as a "production option" and get additional revenues for it. It was a very good effort to help the audience see things from Roger's chair, and to pragmatically engage on the issues.
Some notable quotes:
- "It's a 'bet the company' bet to build a nuclear plant." The cost of nuclear power is going up like the cost of everything, and all costs are going up dramatically.
- "Sequestration's no walk in the park."
- "We need urgency, not panic."
- "If we have the price of carbon right," all but two of Duke's existing power plants will be retired by 2050.
- "We need an economy-wide cap-and-trade," but not an auction for the rights, which would essentially be a carbon tax, which could result in a consumer revolt. (However, Jim did favor a "surcharge on electricity" to fund more DOE research, so I guess the real issue is making sure that the coal-heavy utilities don't carry too much of the burden -- at some point, Jim and I will have to talk about tax shifts...)
- Upon taking a sip of his drink, "It's not water, it's vodka. When you build coal plants, you need vodka."
Both Doerr and Rogers gave nice reasons for their commitment to addressing climate change: Daughters and grand-daughter, respectively.
It was also very entertaining to be invited as a member of the "press" to attend the adjacent press conference for the big announcement that MIT and the Fraunhofer Institute are teaming up to launch the "MIT-Fraunhofer Institute for Sustainable Energy Systems."
German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was there alongside Massachusetts Sec. of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles, so lots of scribes and photogs... and one highly amused VC. Yours truly's self-centered entertainment value aside, this launch is a big deal and yet another good sign of the major efforts being undertaken to help build the cleantech cluster here in New England. More info here
A very good conference overall, a must-attend next year as well.
Two other events to keep in mind:
On the west coast, make sure to come out to the next REBN event --
REBN will be hosting a happy hour next Wednesday, April 16th from 6:00pm - 8:00pm.
It's been some time since our last event, so try not to miss this excellent opportunity to network and talk all that's clean and green. Our membership has exploded in the last year, so I expect a great turnout. These events will be more regular in the future, so if you can't make this one, there will be another just around the corner.
Wednesday's event will be held at MR at 560 Sacramento St (between Sansome St & Montgomery St). There will be drink specials and plenty of opportunity to mingle. No need to RSVP, just come and enjoy.
Thanks to all who responded with interest to volunteer helping to put these events and others together. We received an overwhelming response and have assembled a great crew to deliver content and activities on a more regular basis.
In the Boston area:
Join your Boston-area cleantech colleagues at the next Renewable Energy Business Network happy hour:
April 22nd, 6:30PM
REBN-East’s Earth Day Happy Hour
The BU Pub (click for details, map and directions)
225 Bay State Road
Co-sponsored by @Ventures
and the BU Energy Club