David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, is leaving his post at the U.S. Department of Energy, following a rather productive four-year stint during a tremendously dynamic time in the energy industry.
He was the first Program Director hired by DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which focuses on high-risk, high-reward clean energy technologies. Prior to joining ARPA-E, he was an investor at venture firm General Catalyst Partners. He also founded the MIT Energy Club.
Danielson spoke to GTM on Monday morning, and although he didn't announce his next career move, he is heading back to Salinas, Calif., his birthplace, to spend some time with his family. Really.
He spearheaded an enormous number of quality programs -- and if there's an overarching theme, it's one of breaking down silos with cross-cutting efforts that focus on a larger goal. Think of solar soft costs having to be reduced across wide webs of services.
Danielson discussed "cross-cutting initiatives that were urgent" in grid modernization and clean energy manufacturing." He said the "electrical grid area doesn't tolerate silos" and pointed to the cooperation between HECO and SolarCity "to give HECO some confidence to double their limit of distributed PV deployment."
He spoke of the U.S. "using clean energy to grow our manufacturing strength." Technologies such as wide bandgap semiconductors for power electronics, advanced composites, and 3-D printing of items such as homes, cars or wind turbine blades are being funded. Danielson also pointed out the U.S.-based manufacturing work by Silevo, 1366, Soraa, Suniva and Tesla.
He spoke of a $170 million geothermal effort at a single site "to crack the code for enhanced geothermal -- throwing the kitchen sink at EGS" using techniques such as horizontal geothermal wells.
To make up for the "dearth of VC," Danielson's efforts included work with national labs, students and incubators such as Cyclotron Road.
EERE’s David Friedman will become EERE’s Acting Assistant Secretary.
In Danielson's words, "Since the beginning of this administration, wind power production has tripled, now exceeding 70 GW, and solar power costs have dropped by more than 60% with solar installations up by more 20 times, shattering the 20 GW barrier. Battery costs have dropped more than 70%, and today we have more than 400,000 plug-in electric vehicles on America’s roads. Highly efficient LED lighting has dropped in cost by more than 90%, with LED deployment growing by more than 200 times to more than 80 million installed light bulbs today. And from 2004 to 2015, global investment in clean energy has rocketed by more than 5 times, from $60B to more than $320B."
"None of this would have been possible without EERE’s high-impact, long-term investments in clean energy innovation. In fact, third-party evaluations of EERE’s investments from 1976-2012 have found that $12B in EERE R&D investments over that time period resulted in economic benefits of more than $230B, an almost 20x return on investment."
Vivint Solar's CEO, Greg Butterfield, has stepped down, and David Bywater, formerly COO at Vivint Smart Home, will serve as interim CEO. The executive move comes two months after Vivint's $2.2 billion acquisition by SunEdison was terminated. Shares of Vivint Solar are down 8 percent today. Blackstone Group is the majority shareholder in Vivint Solar and the owner of Vivint Smart Home.
First Solar named CFO Mark Widmar as its new CEO, effective July 1, 2016, replacing James Hughes, who intends to step down as CEO at that time. Hughes will remain in an advisory role and on the board. Widmar has served as First Solar’s CFO since 2011 and will take a seat on the board. Alexander Bradley, First Solar’s VP of treasury and project finance, has been appointed interim CFO. CEO Jim Hughes has made repeated claims about cost reductions at the leading integrated solar power provider, saying, "We have a technology roadmap -- by 2017, we'll be under $1.00 per watt fully installed on a tracker in the western United States." A recent GTM Squared article detailed First Solar's move to a new medium-voltage DC solar power plant architecture.
Andy Zetlan is now practice director of ABB's asset suite for its enterprise software product group. Zetlan previously served as VP of business development and regulatory at Aclara Technologies.
SunEdison (OTC PINK: SUNEQ) just announced that John Dubel has been appointed chief restructuring officer of the bankrupt firm. Dubel will "have sole authority and discretion on behalf of the management of SunEdison with respect to all matters in connection with the firm's restructuring initiatives." Dubel is the CEO of Dubel & Associates, a provider of restructuring and turnaround services to underperforming companies.
Enertech Search Partners, an executive search firm with a dedicated cleantech practice, is the sponsor of the GTM jobs column.
Searching for a VP of Software Engineering
Enertech's client is a software company helping new energy companies build energy cost savings into its products and services. Customers include solar developers, energy services firms, EV manufacturers, and the makers of internet-connected devices.
The client is seeking a VP of Engineering who will manage, motivate and develop the company’s software engineering team. In this role, the candidate will also own the engineering processes, work closely with product owners and management, and foster collaboration. The candidate must have extensive software engineering management experience.
Ethical Electric has named Mary Beth Mandanas as executive VP and CSO. Mandanas has over 20 years of experience in investment banking and corporate financing, principally working with the power sector and regulated utilities. As GTM's Stephen Lacey reported a few years back, Ethical Electric is a competitive renewable energy supplier focused on Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states and is co-founded by former MoveOn.org campaigner Tom Matzzie and climate strategist Richard Graves. The company empowers utility customers to purchase 100 percent renewable energy through a competitive power sales strategy.
Stephanie Mohr was promoted to director of customer care at SolarCity.
From last weeks's column:
As GTM's Julia Pyper reported, "Under Crane’s leadership, NRG launched a multi-pronged clean energy business with a unique focus on distributed, customer-centric products and services. Crane had a vision to transition the company from a traditional fossil-fuel power producer into a clean technology powerhouse. He wanted to make NRG the Google of energy."
Would Crane end up leading a more patient, more renewables-friendly utility? Helming a startup and bringing his utility savvy to a new company? Leading a renewables advocacy effort? (SEIA has a recent opening.)
Actually, David Crane will be joining Pegasus Capital Advisors as its senior operating executive.
Craig Cogut founded Pegasus, a $2 billion private equity fund that specializes in "sourcing, buying, and building middle-market companies that compete on the basis of sustainability and resource efficiency."
The Guardian referred to Cogut as "one of the founding fathers of private equity as a co-founder of Apollo Global Management." The firm's investments include Universal Lubricants, Molycorp Minerals, Lighting Science, iGPS, Traxys, Cannondale Bicycle Corporation, Jenzabar, PSI and Carol's Daughter.
Green Charge Networks named Tim Larrison as its new CFO. Green Charge claims to be "the largest provider of commercial energy storage in the United States with more than 45 megawatt-hours of energy storage projects in operation or under construction." Earlier this year, Jeff St. John reported that "Green Charge Networks and Stem have been racing each other for the title of top behind-the-meter battery startup -- and for funding to back their no-money-down deals for customers."
Larrison joins Green Charge from YGEA Holding, "a subsidiary of Yingli Solar where he was CFO and board director, responsible for the day-to-day financial and administrative management of the company and North American finance initiatives."