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Thoughts On ARPA-E and Powerit Solutions

Rob Day: March 5, 2011, 12:29 AM

Forgive a combined post on two different topics today, but between the ARPA-E conference in D.C., the MIT Energy Conference in Boston, and a general flood of activity in the office, it's been a crowded week. Plus, at least in my mind, they're connected.

First, on the ARPA-E conference: one thing that struck me at the conference was how the exhibit hall seemingly was dominated by bugs and carbon-capture techs. Now, I'm glad that ARPA-E funds are going to tackle such difficult technical challenges, and I hope that someday there will be breakthroughs in these areas as a result.  

But it did drive home for me just how much I'm bothered by the disconnect between the strong efforts by ARPA-E on the innovation side of things and the much weaker efforts by the DOE in general to create markets for the resulting products -- and for other clean energy products and services as well.

ARPA-E has been, in my opinion, a very well-done effort to focus on using a limited amount of funding for maximum innovation (and, to a lesser extent, commercialization) impact. Anyone who's been part of the ARPA-E selection process knows the program staff have managed to drive an impressive number of projects through a review-driven and analytical-driven process in a short amount of time. It would be impossible for no duds to have gotten through, but I think most people with knowledge of the specific projects and research ARPA-E has backed would agree that on the whole they've done a great job picking projects that could make a difference. And certainly there's a capital gap in the early innovation stage of certain clean energy techs (especially in bugs and clean coal, for example), where if you believe in the promise of the technologies at all, government can and should play a role in fostering early-stage innovation.

But as we've discussed on this site before, the big question for me isn't where will the innovation come from in overall cleantech markets -- it's how those innovations will get into the market and gain wide acceptance.  And that's where I see other DOE efforts as having fallen pretty flat.  

DOE/EPA Energy Star standards, for example, have been important over the last couple of decades for signaling to utilities and customers which energy-efficient products they should adopt.  And it has been good to see the program crack down on offenders who've fraudulently claimed to meet the standards.  But on the lighting side of things, the standards have been so delayed that they've forced utilities and others to come up with their own substitute standards, which, of course, has meant serious delays for approving rebates for new products, which has in turn hindered advanced lighting startups' efforts to get market traction.  

And the loan guarantee program, while a well-meaning attempt to directly address the commercialization challenge, has fallen very flat -- to the point where it's Exhibit A for the short-sighted partisan politicians in Congress who want to slash government support for energy R&D to the bone. The loan guarantee program staff are doing the best they can, but the process has just been poorly designed, and has been put under too much political pressure.  It's been the ultimate example of "the government picking winners," which can work if done at the industry level and done very strategically, but definitely doesn't work at the individual company level. I personally would love to see loan guarantee program funds redirected to more general industry new-tech-adoption efforts, like incentives for customers, and category-based tax credits for project developers.  That may not make me many friends in our industry, but it's how I feel.

The biggest challenge preventing adoption of cleantech products and services is, of course, the lack of an appropriate pricing signal, due to the general policy ineptitude in Washington, D.C.  But aside from that, the biggest obstacle is, in my opinion, the lack of educated, incentivized and properly structured channels.  The IT industry was greatly assisted in its rapid expansion phase by the emergence of "value-added resellers," or VARs.  These critical channel partners were (and are) the facilitators who allowed skeptical and overwhelmed customers to figure out which IT products worked, help to manage implementation, etc. Cleantech needs VARs.

Instead, we have 100-year-old channels -- lighting distributors, HVAC service providers, roofers, etc. -- or no channel at all, in many cases.  This is why so many residential energy efficiency product developers have attempted (and largely failed) to roll out their products through either the utilities or big-box retail stores, neither of which are effective or timely.  

This is exactly where the DOE could be helpful, and in inexpensive ways.  They could help end customers simply find whatever VAR analog does exist, for example, and create a vetted directory of such channel partners.  Well, my team has done a pretty exhaustive search for such service providers, and no such list exists, at least not in any useful form.  There is one EPA Energy Star Partner list, but it is completely unvetted, and the low quality control over who gets included and what they claim to do makes it effectively useless, not to mention that several such VAR-like service providers I happen to know of aren't even on that list. It wouldn't be expensive to set up something like that at the DOE.  It wouldn't have to be done in a very bureaucratic way; it could be done in a wiki-type fashion with some limited oversight for quality control. (In fact, consider this an open call to anyone out there who can figure out a great way to make it happen independently.)

The DOE could also help educate the channel, aggregating knowledge of all of the fast-emerging products in these markets, and regularly informing existing channels about what's being offered, what's been installed and where.  Again, it wouldn't have to be comprehensive or bureaucratically programmed to be quite valuable. And don't tell me it would be hard for the DOE to know about everything going on -- if they were to establish an effective program for identifying new products and sharing that knowledge with downstream channels and customers, then product developers would rush to make sure the DOE knew about their new offerings.  The challenge comes not in aggregating the product info but in vetting it, weeding out the fanciful and the fraudulent.  But a little bit of dedicated resources put to work in organizing and screening the inbound info would go a long way, and something would certainly be better than nothing.  Occasionally, a useful report is put out on a particular tech topic by a DOE-run lab, and that's a great start.  We just need more such efforts, more often updated.

Most valuable would be for the DOE to dive into exactly why channel partners in these sectors are not incentivized or structured to be effective VARs. It would also be helpful to fund some basic academic research, and perhaps to fund some pilot programs to test new models. It's not difficult to invent new service models and other market structures. It doesn't require laws to dictate market structures.  How commercial property landlords in California pass through their tenants' energy bills, for example, is very different from how it's done in Dallas, and both are different from how it's done in Houston.  And that's all just because the market standards in each place have evolved that way.  But those differences are huge in terms of how the property owners are incented to adopt new energy-efficient technologies, and thus in terms of how service providers can be effective at pushing new tech.  There are also existing efforts out there among major property developers, etc., to identify and test new technologies. The DOE could easily help facilitate, provide information to, and highlight the information gleaned from such efforts.

All of the above, in aggregate, could be tackled at significantly less than the cost of a single DOE Loan Guarantee award.

These kinds of efforts could help launch a wave of VARs and customer adoption in cleantech markets, thus accelerating the commercialization and adoption of some of the technologies being developed through ARPA-E and elsewhere.

Not coincidentally, rumors that I'm hearing suggest that the White House is increasingly frustrated with the slow pace of market implementation of energy tech -- and that there's pressure to think about a new Secretary of Energy to replace Secretary Chu, whose background lends itself much more to the innovation side of things than the commercialization side of things. In fact, I'm hearing rumors that Arnold Schwarzenegger is being groomed to be the next Secretary of Energy.  Certainly he gave a great speech at the ARPA-E conference, by all accounts, and also participated in some other meetings alongside Chu.  I can't tell you whether these rumors are true... but that would be interesting.


Pulling me away from the conference was the fact that our newest deal was announced, an investment in Powerit Solutions, a smart grid tools provider.  Katie Tweed did a nice write-up this week.  

I wanted to mention it because it's a prime example (at least to this biased writer!) of one principle I was writing about recently, namely, that competitive advantage is not just about proprietary technology.

I've known about Powerit for a while and have been fascinated to watch as they've established a pretty unique position in the industrial side of demand response. There are multiple vendors out there who have developed technologies to automatically adjust HVAC and lighting systems in commercial and residential buildings to participate in demand response and other load-shifting programs.  Controlling an office building's HVAC system for load control purposes isn't hard technically, and while the market is somewhat skeptical, they're not petrified of what happens if the tech fails; people are uncomfortable and complain, the system is disengaged, and life goes on. In the industrial market, however, it's much more difficult to get customer buy-in.  If you're controlling the major electricity loads in a factory or plant, you're potentially disrupting production.  

What I've always liked about Powerit is that they've already established a strong level of credibility in the marketplace with hundreds of installations -- and that's very difficult for any new startup to establish.  I don't care how whiz-bang and proprietary a new industrial controls technology is that might be introduced to the market -- if you're going to go sell to managers of foundries or food processing plants, they're not going to adopt that new technology unless it's been tried a lot of times in someone else's plants. Of course, if there were effective VARs that the customers could trust to stand behind the new innovations, and they were themselves confident enough to rapidly vet and adopt new innovations, it might be easier for a new entrant into that market. But lacking that, customers have to be skeptical about any technology that doesn't already have a long track record, which can be a big challenge for any new startup in that sector. Besides the fact that it's also just generally harder to build a smart tech for that segment, this probably explains why Powerit remains so uniquely positioned in the one-third of the electricity consumption pie that is the industrial sector. A single Powerit-enabled industrial plant can free up demand capacity worth 10 times the capacity of a commercial office building -- at lower cost, too.

There are a lot of other things I like about Powerit, obviously (bringing on board a proven CEO, Matt Shiltz, to help take the company to the next level; plus, there is more news to come out soon that will illustrate how valuable the system's flexibility is, so stay tuned), and that get me excited about their potential to grow quickly.  But my point isn't just to self-interestedly talk them up (sorry!), but really to point to them as a concrete example of a principle I'd recently written up.  

Powerit is a great demonstration of the fact that it's very often more important to think about sustainable competitive advantage in cleantech in ways other than proprietary technology.  Social media venture investors, of course, already know this principle well, but many cleantech venture investors are just waking up to it.  We need to learn to treat skeptical, conservative markets and channels as not a regrettable obstacle, but as a potential opportunity to build an advantage.  

In other words, to take advantage of that very market gap that, on the whole, I wish the DOE would do a better job of addressing.

Competitive Advantage: Not Just About Tech

Rob Day: February 26, 2011, 9:18 AM

There's been too much blind faith within the cleantech venture sector on proprietary technology as the primary way for startups to create a competitive advantage.

Certainly, holding a defensible patent can help a startup with a cost or performance advantage to maintain that advantage over time.  Proprietary IP has been part of the success story of early cleantech "winners" such as First Solar, for example.

But the pursuit of such proprietary technology can be very expensive -- in both direct and indirect ways.

First of all, it can be expensive to develop and commercialize products based upon truly differentiated core technology.  Thin-film solar is again another example of this.  From successes like First Solar to to-be-determined stories like Nanosolar, MiaSolé, Solyndra, etc., the pursuit of proprietary manufacturing techniques has meant having to invest hundreds of millions of dollars and years of effort in developing manufacturing equipment and techniques, all mostly from scratch.  

But indirectly, there's also a significant cost from trying to be secretive during the development process, out of fear that larger established competitors will be able to steal (or just borrow from) the tech sooner than the startup can get out to the market.  This is the not-often-discussed downside of a company remaining in "stealth" -- it's tougher for the startup's technologists to get outside input on alternative approaches that might improve their tech, and for the startup's bizdev / senior management to know how best to position their product when it's ready for the market.  This can increase the chances that the startup develops a product that, by the time it's ready, has been leapfrogged, or that simply doesn't meet customer needs for other reasons.  When in the pursuit of proprietary tech, the startup remains insular for a few years -- and this indirect cost can have significant impact.

Furthermore, none of the above fits very well with the current cleantech VC rhetoric about "capital-efficient" businesses.

But there are other ways to create a sustainable competitive advantage.  A startup can build a key set of channel or customer relationships that would be hard for a follower to wrest away.  A startup can build in a level of integration with customer processes or products that would be tough to un-do.  Brands can be built and utilized. There's even a form of "capital momentum" that we've seen where an early market leader uses their position to raise a lot more capital, including perhaps via an IPO, than their competition.  And then they'll be better-positioned to grow more quickly than those competitors. EnerNOC was an example of a firm using this kind of approach.

One key way of creating a defensible competitive advantage that I'm increasingly seeing deployed by cleantech entrepreneurs is market partnerships.  In many cleantech markets, the value chains have certain chokepoints where there's a high level concentration of component or product vendors.  And given the increasing interest in the corporate world around cleantech as a growth market, often these larger companies have aspirations (and sometimes even have launched their own products and services) to get into cleantech markets.  

Over the past couple of years, I've seen a lot of cleantech startups seek to develop sustainable competitive advantages in the marketplace by forming partnerships with these larger players.  

Most often, it's a partnership where the larger player is helping the smaller company to commercialize their proprietary technology. Forming a JV to build a first commercial production plant, for example. This can help with some of the challenges mentioned above in developing a proprietary technology.

But what I find more interesting are the partnerships I'm seeing where the startup works with entrenched upstream companies. Product manufacturers in traditional product lines (like, for instance, lighting products) who are developing new products based around emerging technologies (so to continue the lighting example, LEDs), but realize that their existing channels and sales models don't do a good job selling these new products. So a startup comes along with a system integration play, or a business model innovation, and is able to establish an exclusive relationship with the larger vendor.  

These and other examples are pretty interesting ways that cleantech startups with or without proprietary tech are creating competitive advantages not based on patents, but instead based on market dynamics.  For the startup, it's a lot more capital-efficient and speedy than developing a brand new technology from scratch.  And it also takes advantage of existing value chains, rather than attempting to disrupt existing value chains -- and when these energy, etc., value chains are 100 years old or so, they have a tendency to resist disruption.

Now the question is, will cleantech VCs be open to such non-tech approaches to creating sustainable competitive advantage?  

Clean Economy Summit: The Emerging Love Fest Between the U.S. Military and the Cleantech Sector

Rob Day: February 14, 2011, 10:22 AM

After attending the Clean Economy Summit a couple of weeks ago, things have been a bit of a blur, so I'm only now able to write about one major takeaway I had from the event.

There's an emerging love affair between the cleantech sector and the U.S. military.

At the event, two of the best-attended sessions were a speech by the Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and a special panel session on the military and energy technology innovation.  And for good reason -- while the legislative branch of the U.S. government continues to dither away the opportunity to establish robust cleantech markets in the U.S., the military can't afford to wait.  And so they're providing a pathway to commercialization for emerging clean energy technologies, which is exactly what many cleantech startups desperately need right now.

The Navy, Air Force and Army have always provided strong support for technology innovation in the U.S. The long-standing DARPA program has helped launch any number of technology innovations that later became important to the private sector (the most often cited example being, of course, the internet) by supporting early research and 'productization.' That way, successfully commercialized technologies can rack up early (and lucrative) sales to the U.S. military, because of the services' prioritization of mission success over cost savings.

I recently sat in on a small private talk featuring John Trbovich of Arsenal Venture Partners, which has very tight relationships with the military.  He made a compelling case that the Department of Defense's energy challenges are actually a strategic opportunity.  According to my (perhaps faulty) notes from John's talk:

  • The DoD has 93 billion square feet of facility space, spread out over 545,000 buildings.
  • The DoD is the world's largest oil buyer. They spend $16B annually on fuel.
  • The military directs $81B per year to R&D, which represents 22% of the overall R&D spending in the U.S.
  • The Air Force has become one of the most important "buyers" of solar power, but primarily by leasing their land and engaging in power purchase agreements.
  • The Navy has laid out very aggressive goals for reducing fuel use and carbon intensity across both sea and land operations.

I've also been invited into small sessions where Navy tech people have gotten together with cleantech VCs, as just one example of a case where the military leadership is directly reaching out to the cleantech entrepreneurial community for ideas and solutions.

All of which helps explain why the cleantech industry regards the military as such an intriguing potential partner -- deep pockets and compelling needs.  And I see this in some of my portfolio companies, particularly those who've engaged with various military efforts as potential early-adopter customers and research funders.

But as Trbovich pointed out, this is a lot easier said than done.  

  • The DoD has no consistent technology acquisition policy or vehicle.
  • Despite these strong directives from the top, actual purchasers are often given no budget authority for new tech.
  • Decision-making is often highly decentralized.  For example, in energy efficiency and onshore renewable power, it's often a base-by-base decision -- which isn't very scalable.
  • The DoD can hinder itself.  For example, the DoD has put a moratorium on new wind installations because of antiquated radar systems that are still in place.
  • There's often a timeframe mismatch.  Solar PPAs are generally at least 20 years to make the economics work, but the max lease allowed for any base is 10 years.
  • Base commanders may have the desire, but often don't have control over capex.  They are stuck with high operating expenses because they don't have the capital budget to do anything about it.
  • It's easy to waste significant time chasing DARPA dollars and sales contracts where the process isn't as open as it may appear -- and where another vendor is already essentially baked in.

The ability to help navigate some of these challenges is exactly why my firm is an LP in Arsenal VP's fund. It's just a lot easier said than done, and those guys understand how to do it.

Secretary Mabus' speech at the Clean Economy Summit brought the conference crowd to its feet in applause. He spoke not only of the above needs, but also talked poignantly about how U.S. men and women in uniform are dying because of the need to transport massive amounts of fuel and batteries into war zones. He also described the frustration of military leadership when they see energy-related dollars ending up in the very regions where the military is engaged in conflict.

And so part of the reason for this love-fest is even more basic: it's the most visible way that those of us in the U.S. cleantech industry feel we're working not only for our own sake and for environmental goals, but also to support our country.  

If only such sentiments were more widely felt and understood on Capitol Hill, we'd see a lot fewer partisan political games around energy policy.

The Next Wave of Cleantech VCs

Rob Day: January 30, 2011, 11:21 PM

A couple of years ago, before things went wrong with the economy, there were a fair number of first-time cleantech venture firms out fundraising. Some have persevered in their fundraising efforts. Most have had to stop trying.

It may be healthy overall for the sector over the long run to not have too many funds running around.  But what's a shame is that this weeding out came at a time when the sector was in need of some reinvention, different investment models and different perspectives.  While some of that reinvention will come from more established firms in the sector, some of those newer firms would ostensibly have had a better chance of coming up with that new thinking.

What I find fascinating, however, is that I believe the next wave of cleantech venture firms will come from within.  Across the industry, in a lot of established generalist and cleantech-specialist firms, or having recently left them, there is a cadre of less senior investors who are bumping up against advancement ceilings at their current firms, and are thinking about what they could do in launching their own firm, alone or with others.

Some are cleantech specialists at generalist firms that are shifting away from cleantech. Others are investors with significant experience at specialist firms who don't see an opportunity to advance within those firms, given the likelihood of smaller funds (thanks to the rough fundraising environment) and the current makeup of their firm.  Professionals with five to 10 years of cleantech investing experience, still considered "young" by VC standards, but who've already been through one investment cycle in a sector that itself is young. And sometimes collaborating with these investors are some more senior partners who agree with the need for reinvention and may be looking for new platforms.  

I just got off the phone this morning with yet another such "young" investor who's launching his own new firm, and I've spoken with a number of investors who've already left the firms they had previously been affiliated with and are thinking about putting such efforts together.  I also have a sense there are others out there still at their current firms but quietly thinking about making the jump (if this sounds like you, you're far from alone). The recurring theme of these conversations runs along these lines: "Cleantech venture capital has been done wrong / missed the real opportunity, and we're thinking about some new models or new tactics." Which, of course, is music to my ears.

I think this is an exciting development for the sector, because this means there might be a wave of experienced cleantech investors with a willingness to break with the past, entering the marketplace with new energy and new thinking. The young guns of cleantech venture capital may yet ride to the rescue.

A Litmus Test

Rob Day: January 25, 2011, 12:40 AM

Just finished a very long first day at the Clean Economy Summit in D.C.  Lots of cleantech business leaders in attendance, a great crowd.

I've ended up being in more conversations about the current and future role of natural gas than I expected.  It's clear that the expected continued low cost of natural gas in this country is going to have major impacts on cleantech markets and policies in the U.S. going forward.

Participants were allocated to roundtables on various topics of interest; my group was tasked with thinking about what an effective clean energy standard (the latest rebranding of a national renewable portfolio standard) might look like.  Managers from a wide range of cleantech industries gathered, talking about what would help them out of such a policy.

As per the ground rules of the discussion, I won't talk about what members of the group talked about, but I'll mention some of the points I made:

1. Complexity kills.  

If the cleantech community proposes any new energy policies, they'd better be simple.  Complex policy proposals are hard to message. They're subject to the various cleantech subsectors fighting each other over spoils that matter only to them, eliminating legislative momentum.  And if anything actually gets passed, it creates artificial boundaries, artificial skews to the free market.

2. Rather than ask for more government spending, focus on removing red tape.

Permitting and other approvals require significant effort and create significant obstacles for the implementation of clean energy technologies. And even if such red tape is evenly distributed across all energy projects, the transaction costs end up discriminating against smaller-scale projects, which basically means discriminating mostly against clean energy projects.  Before asking for more handouts, the cleantech community should start by asking for harmonization of local permitting and approvals, and a general reduction of government red tape that is standing in the way of clean energy implementation.

3. Natural gas is my litmus test for any new clean energy standard.

If you start from the perspective that natural gas prices are low and are going to continue to stay low, natural gas becomes the market price standard for any new generation project.  A lot of the discussion today danced around a couple of critical parameters of any clean energy standard: How high a percentage of the energy generation mix should be "clean energy" (with an inclusive definition including natural gas and some other "cleaner" fuels versus the incumbent mix), and what proportion within that clean energy mix should be allocated to specific technologies like renewables, energy efficiency, and natural gas.

To me, the litmus test is simple. An effective clean energy policy results in increased consumption of all three of renewables, energy efficiency and natural gas compared to the status quo, with enough flexibility that states could achieve their targets without increasing costs for utility customers (by offsetting lower-cost techs with higher-cost emerging techs) if they so choose, and with a dominant role for the free market in choosing specific technologies to implement.  If the policy ends up actually reducing the use of natural gas versus business-as-usual, it's skewing the market too much away from the market-making price. If the policy ends up seeing natural gas use expand while renewables and energy efficiency are getting pushed aside, it's not an effective longer-term strategy.

There should be a broad range of fairly simply-designed policies that meet this test -- although the targets may be higher than some politicians are ready to support right now.

Solve a Local Problem

Rob Day: January 22, 2011, 2:03 AM

My hometown was fortunate to be the recipient of a Massachusetts Green Communities award this year.  So I showed up at the town Renewable Energy Committee meeting to see if I could help.  Being the fourth person in the room, it turned out to be a bit more interactive than I'd expected.

On the table were proposals to do major energy retrofits of the town's schools; financing a solar system on one town building's roof; marketing campaigns to get residents to do energy retrofits for their homes; funding a geothermal heat pump for the library; putting up a wind turbine at the athletic fields; purchasing more efficient street lamps; etc.

In other words, a pretty wide range of choices that the town has to deal with, with limited resources.  And it'll be fun to help them think through their options...

But what it also brought home was the major gulf between the pretty high level at which we cleantech investors and entrepreneurs often operate, and the very specific challenges that are faced locally.  

So often, I get approached by cleantech entrepreneurs who have a better mousetrap... but they haven't ever actually caught a mouse.  

It's not unusual for me to see a business plan for a new energy generation or energy efficiency product or service that assumes rational customers with plenty of opportunities to make the correct choice when faced with a wide range of options.  It rarely works out that way in reality.

The devil is very much in the details -- and in the available options and information --  in energy markets.  In my town, they're essentially forced to work with a certain pre-approved ESCO for almost all of the above.  That significantly reduces their technology options, and their vendor options.  They are given a choice of a short list of solar financing options, each of which means they don't have control over the form factor of the solar generation tech to be used.  Concentrated PV systems?  Forget it.  The choices are dictated by the financing partner and ESCO.

Similarly, I could tell by a quick look at the energy efficiency proposals from the ESCO that they were probably incomplete.  At least in regards to the increasingly rich set of technology options available to customers.  LED lighting?  Forget it, not an offered option.  And forget about smart windows or BIPV or new HVAC tech.

Partly, this is just a failure of the ESCO model, which is one reason why the "MUSH" market (municipal, university, school, hospital) may be willing to use ESCOs, but private sector building owners hardly ever use them.

But mostly, this reflects real conditions "on the ground."  Why should my hometown government take any risks on a new tech?  Why should they fight with their local utility, or the state governing agency, or the pre-approved ESCO?

So here's my advice to energy tech entrepreneurs:  Start with solving a very local problem.

If you have a great idea for a new energy tech, that's awesome.  Go talk to your town or local customers about it.  See why they might be interested in it.  See why they might not be able to get the full value out of it.  Get very serious very quickly about what it would take for it to actually be implemented PROFITABLY in your town, or with a local customer.

Does your product not qualify for rebates for some reason?  Does it not fit into existing energy procurement processes the customer may have?  Does it not physically fit in their building and/or grounds?  Can they not actually capture the savings you're creating, because of the way the utility bills them?  Does capturing savings require behavioral changes that are unlikely for the people you're talking to?  Is it simply not interesting given the current energy prices where you live?

Get really in the details, very quickly.  And the best way to do that is to try to work with a customer very close to you, very early on.

In these often complex energy tech markets, it's important to get the lay of the land early on, before starting to build an expensive tech or offering that then needs major adjustments before the real world can actually use it.  And being able to demonstrate a real-world implementation can also help show a level of credibility to investors and follow-on customers that can be important as well.

"Think globally, act locally."

Looking Forward to the Clean Economy Summit Next Week

Rob Day: January 18, 2011, 12:03 PM

Regular readers will recognize the Clean Economy Network from my past mentions of the organization, which has been establishing itself as a nonpartisan voice and community convener for the cleantech industry in Washington, D.C. and in regional chapters across North America.

They're going to be hosting their first annual Clean Economy Summit next week.  An invite-only event to bring together 150 cleantech CEOs, investors and top policymakers for two days of networking and market/policy planning.  I'm looking forward to the event, which promises to be a pretty interesting crowd.

As we look forward to the next wave of U.S. cleantech, what market and policy priorities do you think should emphasized by this group?  Given current economic and political constraints, what are the most important things for this crowd to keep in mind over those two days?  As co-chair of the Clean Economy Network Education Fund's board, I'm going to be handling a few of the emcee duties, and I'd like to insert some of YOUR thoughts and concerns and ideas... So if you'd like to, please share yours in the comments section below this post.  We're all trying to build a robust cleantech community, and while this is a pretty exclusive event, I'd like to help make it inclusive as well...

Also, if you get a chance, check out CEN's new blog, Clean Economy Capitol.  Well worth checking out.

I'll report back from the Summit. Stay tuned.