Recent Posts:

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Localization

Rob Day: November 27, 2012, 8:41 PM

"Cleantech" being a catch-all term that covers a wide range of mostly disconnected industries and markets and technologies, it's always interesting to note commonalities across subsectors where you can find them.

One such macrotrend which I believe will end up driving a lot of cleantech innovation is the emergence of distributed alternatives to previously centralized processes. 

There are two factors underlying this trend.

First of all, long-range transportation costs appear likely to be higher going forward, simply because they are so dependent upon oil prices. This is not a given. But there are reasons to believe oil prices are likely to rise over the medium to long run,...

The Role of the DOE in Obama’s Second Term

Rob Day: November 8, 2012, 10:30 AM

Have been on a run of policy-related columns lately, and am eager to get back to talking about cleantech entrepreneurs and investors.

But I have had a few people request some thoughts on the role of the DOE in Obama's second term, so figured I would tackle that first.

In short, my overall perspective is that the DOE under Secretary Chu has launched some important things, but now needs to transition from a focus on technological innovation (without losing the progress made there) to a focus on commercialization and consensus-building.

First, let's recap what the DOE actually does, because many people don't really know. The DOE is a massive organization, with something like...

Don’t Fail This Time

Rob Day: November 1, 2012, 9:54 AM

We all watched with horror this week as Sandy carved a path of destruction through some of the most populous areas of our country. Please, stop reading this, go find a way to help, and then when you can, come back to the rest of this. Let's focus on helping those in need as a clear first priority.

It's been fascinating to me to watch how quickly the media and some politicians have pivoted this week, post-Sandy, to talking seriously about the dangers of climate change. Whereas just last week I felt the conversation was so pushed to the sidelines that even just forcing a sober discussion would be a step forward.

Let's acknowledge one basic fact: If we ever get to the point where...

A Modest Proposal

Rob Day: October 20, 2012, 3:37 PM

"It is remarkable how little concern men seem to have for logic, statistics, and even, indeed, survival: we live by emotion, prejudice, and pride."

- Dwight Eisenhower, in a letter to Winston Churchill

 

The above quote is very true, and it would appear particularly so right now regarding rhetoric about clean energy policy. Over the past week, we've seen a bunch of op-eds, some fiery, some sober, attacking clean energy policy and its proponents. And of course, then there are lots of reactions from the clean energy community and its proponents, some rebuttals with data, but a few just some form of a primal scream. The issue has become politicized to an illogical level, pundits...

A Few Things to Note in the SolarCity S-1

Rob Day: October 18, 2012, 8:55 AM

I'm a few days late to this party, but finally took a look at the SolarCity S-1 yesterday. A few things have already been written about the business, so I won't redundantly go into all the discussion of operations, risks, etc. (Even better, read it for yourself.) But here are a few items I'll add in that caught my eye.

First of all, for a business model like this, discussions about cashflow and margins aren't straightforward. Much has been written about this being a high cash burn model -- but you have to look under the hood on that, and then really pay attention to the IRRs of their projects, which is the heart of the business. That's not spelled out in the S-1, of course, but...

Lessons From the Past Ten Years: Angels

Rob Day: October 16, 2012, 7:56 PM

Now should be a period of happy hunting for angel and other seed-stage investors looking for new deals. Venture capitalists have abandoned the sector, at least temporarily. The Cleantech Group's early Q3 numbers showed a continued decline in early-stage dealflow, with only 55 early-stage deals tracked worldwide in the quarter. If that number holds upon further review, it would be the lowest such quarter for early-stage deal activity over the past five years. Nevertheless, the entrepreneurs have remained active and in my opinion have brought forth even more investable ideas, more pragmatic approaches with more relevancy for existing markets. So it's wide open spaces for angels and...

The Next Wave of Cleantech Investing Is Here

Rob Day: October 8, 2012, 1:00 PM

The next wave of cleantech is here.


The old form of cleantech is dead or dying, everyone agrees. I don't know too many investors out there still looking for capital-intensive ways of making commodities, as marked the height of the pre-2008 cleantech wave (and that I've been guilty of myself in some cases, I must admit). And there will be yet more bad news piled onto our sector thanks to those types of investments. Just this past week I learned about yet another high-profile capital-intensive cleantech startup that is on the ropes cash-wise, and likely to be a bad headline soon. My message isn't that things are about to turn a corner, in terms of the negative tones in the press,...