Posts Tagged ‘Clean Energy’

Materials Innovation in Clean Tech

December 7, 2011

FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists spoke passionately about the opportunities for materials innovation, and how it can change clean energy offerings that are both practical and affordable for customers like utilities, corporations, manufacturers and homeowners.
Below are some thoughts on the opportunities ahead for materials innovation in clean tech:
• Develop materials and solutions which would help manage the peaks and valleys brought by renewable energy getting into the grid. This will become increasingly important.
• In the same token, develop materials innovations which fit within existing infrastructure and even make the infrastructure more flexible, more scalable.
• Consider automating basic, needed services which use fewer resources, like anything from window-cleaning to car and battery maintenance.
• Use plentiful, inexpensive, proven materials and scale manufacturing and development using these materials.
• Consider developing solutions which are closer to the ‘load’, where the customer demand is greatest. This may mean many micro- solutions for energy management.
• Adapt current materials which make products smaller, lighter, and more durable under extreme conditions, and its applications in the clean energy space.
Below is advice from our experienced panelists:
• Our panelists cautioned entrepreneurs about investing *too* much time and money into the development of a novel, groundbreaking material, and suggested instead to look at proven materials and adapting them to new purposes, to new markets, using new geometries, new manufacturing processes, new composites/combinations, etc. Not only would doing so decrease the likelihood of creating a product or service more quickly for a proven market and paying customer, but it would also be easier to seek funding and partnerships.
• Develop processes and solutions which would make production of your materials cost-effectively, so that you reach grid parity and customers would get the ROI.
• Make it easy for customers to select your solution, changing from their current option. People want to be earth-friendly, but the financial commitment up-front and the technical/hassle-factor is a hurdle to adopting ‘cleaner’ options.
• Leverage partnerships with academics, entrepreneurs, corporates, etc and collaborate to develop new solutions, distribute them to new markets and channels, etc
• Know your area of specialty and work with others to create win-win partnerships for everything from development to manufacturing to distribution and funding.
• Know your market and sell to your market. Prioritize which markets you will sell to when and know why.
• Provide offerings which could withstand extreme conditions – weather, heat, chemicals, etc. and also last for long periods of time, like a decade or two.
• Follow basic business principles: have a great idea and prove it through measurable outcomes based on aggressive milestones and timelines.
• Consider aerospace and military applications for your materials innovation.
• Collaborate to influence policy to be more friendly to innovations in this space.
• Have your finger on market pulse and focus on the needs and feedback of your customers.

In the end, entrepreneurs who will succeed in this space will focus more on incremental innovations than on creating/identifying a game-changing new material, more about business models than on ‘rocket science’, more about producing real value to paying customers and scaling to meet the current and anticipated needs of a global marketplace.

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We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s December 5 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Materials Innovations in Clean Tech:
Facilitator Jill Weir, Product Manager, TE Connectivity
Panelist Scott Elrod, Vice President, Director of Hardware Systems Laboratory, PARC
Panelist Alissa Peterson, Director, Product Marketing and Business Development, Primus Power
Presenting Entrepreneur Phillip Roberts, CEO and Founder, Ionex Energy Storage Systems Inc.
Please join us also in thanking our hosts at PARC.

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Next Generation Solar Solutions

November 8, 2011

FountainBlue’s Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Next Generation Solar Solutions, featuring:
Facilitator Shirin Cooper, Business Development, Sylvatex
Panelist Sean Garner, Manager, Energy Systems Group, PARC
Presenting Entrepreneurs Vikas Desai, CEO, EchoFirst Inc
Presenting Entrepreneur Jason Lu, Founder and CEO, EnFocus Engineering
Presenting Entrepreneur Alain Poivet, Founder and CEO, SunPlanter
Please join us in thanking our hosts at PARC and our speakers for taking the time to share their advice and thoughts. Below are notes from the conversation.
We were fortunate to have a wide range of perspectives on the panel: entrepreneurs from Asia, Europe and India, technology innovations in microinverters, integrated power and lighting, customized and integrated solar solutions with web-based user interface, and solar plant managers. Together, they have spent decades in the clean energy space, watching the ups and downs and have remarked on the following trends:
• Partly due to the manufacturing and process innovations introduced by China, (and neglecting the environmental impact of these changes) solar panels have become largely a commodity, impacting the industry overall.
• Led by Germany’s embracing of the solar market potential through subsidies, many European countries followed and enjoyed leadership in adoption and market, but financially-imposed policy changes in most European countries other than Germany makes it now difficult for both innovators and customers in Europe. Hence, people are looking more closely at markets in Asia and Latin America.
• The US with its huge market, technology innovations, entrepreneurial culture and great weather has the potential to be a leader in this space. However, local, state and federal policy hurdles, infrastructure challenges, lack of cooperation and coordination between major stakeholders, funding challenges, local government bureaucrats and policies are making it difficult for entrepreneurs to succeed.
Our panelists recommended the following opportunities ahead:
• Develop integrated solutions, leveraging existing and hybrid technology – for example, integrating power generation and lighting, or leveraging microinverters , or a racking system that saves installation time.
• Create cost-effective technologies that will provide an attractive ROI of 2-4 years, without subsidy.
• Develop solutions which can be easily integrated into existing buildings, infrastructure etc. For example, if a solar panel could replace a sunroof, it would be much easier to sell the value proposition.
• Find a way to use all the energy from the sun, leveraging mirrors or other technologies. Currently, there is a lot of wasted energy through heat.
• Develop manufacturing process improvements – perhaps something that doesn’t require the dicing of wafers, leveraging exfoliation techniques, perhaps something that requires less materials or is less labor intensive.
• Leverage sensors and software to provide details about solar energy usage.
Below is advice from our panelists for entrepreneurs in this space:
• Work with other stakeholders to minimize policy/reimbursement and pricing and installation uncertainties.
• We live in a global world, and markets will be global. Have a clear strategy on which markets are hottest now, the easiest to navigate, and prioritize your target markets accordingly.
• Focus less on the technology innovations and think deeply about the technology integration opportunities and the business model innovations.
• The market is still young and the opportunities are huge. Don’t let the recent failures in the market discourage you from exploring the opportunities in the space.
• Despite the hype, there are fewer subsidies for solar than there are for other emerging clean energy options including nuclear. And established businesses such as coal and gas have the largest subsidies of all.! So it will take leadership to forge change and encourage policies, people and markets to embrace more sustainable energy solutions.
• Create a solution leveraging and integrating proven technologies which is not capital intensive, and shows quick wins.
• Collaborate with all stakeholders to support the advancement of the industry overall, not just in the US, but all the global markets.
• Look closely at the opportunities in the retail market. What will generate a clear and quick ROI and be painless to install and implement?
• Scaling your solar business leveraging channels and social networks, partnerships and relationships, without compromising the brand experience.
• Start off in niche markets delivering quality solutions and strategically expand from there.
• Make your solutions more affordable and less dependent on spikes of energy you might get from natural sunlight.
• Propose a way for surplus energy production to be sold back to the grid.
In the end, it is the resilient, entrepreneurial leader who will succeed and lead their company, and bring the industry to the next level, so don’t focus on the (policy, infrastructure, funding, image and other) challenges but do focus on the opportunities ahead.

Sustainable Solutions for the Built Environment

October 4, 2011

FountainBlue’s Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Sustainable Solutions for the Built Environment. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists were quite bullish about the opportunities around sustainable solutions for the built environment, ranging from the materials innovations around building materials to the hardware, software, mobile and sensor opportunities around energy generation and management, to the design, operational and implementation options available leveraging today’s technology innovations in networks, software, mobile and other technologies.
But each panelist describes the hurdles interfering with rapid adoption, including:
• A fragmented market with a range of stakeholders and providers throughout the value chain, and the need to coordinate with each of the established players in that market;
• The dominant tendency to embrace complacency and the status quo with existing building materials and functionality; there’s no strong impetus to act for most people;
• Current low-cost options for everything from windows to lighting to building materials, making it difficult to select more sustainable, much more expensive options;
• The lack of policies and incentives to stimulate changing existing functionality and options;
Yet, despite these challenges, our panelists are able to secure funding, develop technologies, invest in research and development, and otherwise drive forward alternative solutions for the built environment which is building momentum and adding value. They shared some advice for others innovating in this space:
• Partner with entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, universities and other innovators to solve a real problem with real paying customers.
• Work with utilities and policy-makers to facilitate and incentivize wider and faster adoption.
• Identify and sell to areas of greatest need rather than focusing on educating a market that doesn’t yet feel a need.
• Collaborate and partner with all players in the value chain.
• Offer integrated solutions leveraging the latest technology to manage and automate energy usage.
• Use energy efficiency as an entry point, speaking to the ROI, but also provide additional information which provides added value and information beyond energy usage trends.
• Leverage the passion of sustainability enthusiasts.
• Facilitate the adoption of sustainability standards.
• Generate measurable results and speak to each person in the value chain based on what’s most important to them.

The bottom line is that there are huge opportunities in this space, but also huge barriers to success, like the Google and Microsoft projects. The successful innovators will understand the market needs and deliver products and services which address those needs, working with all pieces of the value chain, collaborating in creating a standard for the market overall.
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We would like to thank our speakers for FountainBlue’s Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Sustainable Solutions for the Built Environment:
Facilitator Andrew Barnes, CEO, Asia Cleantech Partners
Panelist Joseph Gordon, Office of the CTO, Applied Materials
Panelist Jeremy Stieglitz, VP of Building Solutions, Redwood Systems
Presenting Entrepreneur Joshua Slobin, Director of Marketing, Daintree Networks Inc.
Please join us also in thanking to Applied Materials for graciously hosting us for this month’s event.

Energy Storage and Management

September 13, 2011

FountainBlue’s September 12 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Energy Storage and Management. Below are notes from the conversation.

Energy storage and management is a critical piece of the energy equation as storing and managing generated energy makes energy more predictably available, with less variability. The challenge is to proactively generate large quantities of energy and make it readily and dynamically available to a ever-growing and demanding audience.
The panelists concurred on the major challenges for providing efficient storage and management systems:
• Storage and management solutions must be scalable and cost-effective.
• They must work within the existing infrastructure.
• Solutions must be easy-to-use in order for customers to adopt it.
• To fit the above three criteria, solutions must leverage proven, solid technologies in order to be cost-effective, scalable, and readily trusted and adopted.
Our panelists also commented on how storage and management solutions will be tied to the evolution of electric vehicle adoption and markets. The jury is still out in terms of how the EV market will grow and evolve, but there’s no debate that EV adoption will impact energy storage, distribution, management and usage patterns, and customers, government, businesses, utilities, and other stakeholders will need to adjust to the changes as they go, whether or not they choose to buy an EV.
Our panelists commented on some of the upcoming opportunities in this space:
• Create sensors as components of the grid, to help monitor, track and manage energy flow and distribution.
• Provide services which would help governments and utilities and homeowners and businesses to monitor and upgrade pieces of the infrastructure in a cost-effective, as needed way. A mass overhaul of infrastructure might be cleaner and even necessary, but it’s too daunting and expensive a task and it would be hard to find someone to pay for it.
• As such, perhaps the lower-hanging fruit is in emerging countries with huge energy needs, without the barriers of aging, outdated infrastructure.
• Leverage hardware and software to automate and manage energy usage to prevent un-intended problems.
• However, this may lead to intentional problems caused by hackers, rebels, militants and others bent on compromising access to energy, so there’s an opportunity to provide security services and solutions to prevent this.
• Convert renewable energy into liquid fuel, as we already have an infrastructure to deal with liquid fuels, through our traditional vehicle fueling stations.
• Consider how software and IT can be applied to existing problems in energy management and storage.
• Find technologies where you don’t need new materials, new equipment and new factories which take a lot of money. Applying existing solutions in new ways that make sense not only saves you time and money, but it also makes the idea more fundable, and is easier to develop and distribute.
• As the EV industry grows, we may progress from having resources adjust to the load to having the load adjust to the resources. There will be opportunities for those who can help various stakeholders adjust to new requirements.
In the end, whether we are talking about compressed air, pumped hydro (good solution, but many of the prime sites are taken), batteries (cost effective challenges here, but re-used EV batteries might be an opportunity), liquid fuel, solar thermal, biofuel, etc., successful clean energy storage and management companies will need to leverage existing and proven solutions in hardware, software, and other areas, to address the demanding and growing need for huge volumes of reliable energy with less variability and lower cost.

Resources:
• Eric Wesoff: September 12, 2011: Terrajoule Unstealths: Distributed Power via Solar, Steam and Storage http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Terrajoule-Unstealths-Distributed-Power-via-Solar-And-Energy-Storage/
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FountainBlue would like to thank and acknowledge our speakers for our September 12 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum, on the topic of Energy Storage and Management:
Facilitator Steve Adelman, Managing Director, Nexus Partners
Panelist Matthew Denesuk, Ph.D., STSM, Manager of Natural Resources Modeling and Social Analytics, IBM Research Partner, IBM Venture Capital Group
Panelist Scott Elrod, Vice President, Director of Hardware Systems Laboratory, PARC
Panelist Jon Eric Thalman, Director, Regulatory Strategy & Support, PG&E
Presenting Entrepreneur Steve Bisset, CEO, Terrajoule
Please also join us in thanking our hosts at PARC for their support of this event and this series.

Transportation Greening Advances

August 3, 2011

FountainBlue’s August 1 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Transportation Greening Advances. Below are notes from the conversation.
We may be crossing the chasm in the green automotive world. Driving factors for this shift include 1) the advancements in a range of technologies (from hardware to software to biofuels to networks), 2) the slowly evolving infrastructure necessary to support alternative transportation options, and 3) the increased global demand for green transportation options ranging from materials innovations to alternative fuels to novel manufacturing to software enablers in transportation from telematics to vehicle controls to customer communications.
Based on their current and past work in the clean transportation area, our panelists covered a wide range of perspectives, from batteries to electrification of vehicles, from telematics to auto manufacturing, from drive trains to cylinder optimization, and including a wide range of software solutions for dealers, automakers and drivers, as well as software which helps cars self-manage and optimize settings!
They commented both on the technology advancements creating new opportunities and the challenges and barriers to innovation and adoption and spoke about the exciting possibilities ahead. Below are some of their thoughts and advice.
Thoughts about the industry overall:
• Green transportation companies often needs to work with both automakers and oil companies – industries which are both powerful, having lived with entitlement for a century or so, *and* slow-to-change, plus less likely to be techno-philic.
• Investors are reticent to fund capital-intensive clean transportation solutions, especially if it requires manufacturing, advanced technology development which takes a long time, etc. Investors, especially those experienced in high tech investments, tend to favor green transportation are leaning toward proven technologies, perhaps involving software, for a ready market, headed by an experienced team.
• Companies from other more traditional sectors from batteries to oil to semiconductors, are recognizing and responding to the green transportation opportunities and innovating into different slices of the opportunity, depending on where their established technologies, markets, channels, etc.
Thoughts on the Opportunities Ahead:
• Today’s vehicles are too heavy, and too energy-inefficient and the industry is too fragmented, too slow-to-adopt, and too dependent on dated infrastructure, and the customers are too ROI-conscious, too complacent with the status quo, and the manufacturing process is too labor-intensive, too expensive, too distributed, etc. There are opportunities in all these ‘toos’.
Advice for Entrepreneurs:
• As with any other industry, you must have the right technology, for a proven market and execute on milestones, particularly when funding is tight, when investors have felt burned by previous investments, when capital-efficient solutions and innovative business models are so important.
• The exploding markets in India, Brazil and China will provide huge opportunities for a large range of vehicles, and they are markets which may be easier to enter than the US markets, where regulations and policies and entitlements make it harder to grow an industry and serve a market.
• Consider the question of who will pay for necessary infrastructure upgrades, required up-front investments, etc and find a business or financing model which would make it easier for them to approve a purchase decision.
• Policy changes will impact purchaser buying decisions and create new opportunities, so track them and strategize how these changes will impact your customers and potential customers.
The bottom line is that we need to make cars affordable and usable, and make it easy to get it in the hands of customers.

Resources:
• Boston Consulting Group Report: Batteries for Electric Cars: Challenges, Opportunities and Outlook to 2020, http://www.bcg.com/documents/file36615.pdf
• Forbes Blog, August 1, 2011: How to Build a Car that Gets 54.5 MPG, by Jim Gorzelany, http://blogs.forbes.com/jimgorzelany/2011/08/01/how-to-build-a-car-that-gets-54-5-mpg/?partner=daily_newsletter
Policy Updates of Interest
1. On July 25, 2011, the CPUC issued Decision 11-07-029. http://docs.cpuc.ca.gov/PUBLISHED/FINAL_DECISION/139969.htm This decision relates to the role of electric vehicles in California. Specifically, it does the following:
o Directs electric utilities to collaborate with automakers and other stakeholders to develop an assessment report to be filed in this proceeding to address a notification processes through which utilities can identify where Electric Vehicles charging will likely occur on their electric systems and plan accordingly;
o Affirms that, with certain exceptions, the electric utilities’ existing residential Electric Vehicle rates are sufficient for early Electric Vehicle market development, and, similarly, that existing commercial and industrial rates are sufficient in the early Electric Vehicle market for non-residential customers. The decision also sets out a process to reexamine Electric Vehicle rates in 2013;
o Considers opportunities to migrate toward new and lower cost metering technologies for Electric Vehicle charging and sets out a process to develop an Electric Vehicle metering protocol to accommodate increased Electric Vehicle metering options, such as submetering;
o Determines that, on an interim basis, until June 30, 2013, the costs of any distribution or service facility upgrades necessary to accommodate basic residential Electric Vehicle charging will be treated as shared cost;
o Defines the role that utilities may play in education and outreach related to Electric Vehicles;
o Requires utilities to perform load research to inform future Commission policy; and
o Addresses utility ownership of electric vehicle service equipment.
2. CAFE Standards Set to Rise to 54.5 mpg for 2025
• Will Your 54.5 MPG Car in 2025 Be Electric or Gasoline? International Business Times Staff Reporter, August 2, 2011 http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/191144/20110802/cars-vehicles-miles-per-gallon-mpg-fuel-efficiency.htm Fuel efficiency in the United States will rise substantially under an agreement reached by the U.S. Government, auto manufacturers, and the state of California.
• The new efficiency standard will cover cars and light trucks for model years 2017-2025, and require a performance equal to 54.5 miles per gallon (mpg) in 2025. The standard will reduce greenhouse gas emission to 163 grams per mile, and it also betters the previous requirement of 35.5 mpg by 2016. The new standard will reduce U.S. oil consumption by 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2025. The United States currently imports 9.1 million bpd of oil.
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FountainBlue would like to thank and acknowledge our panelists for our August 1 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum, on the topic of Transportation Greening Advances:
Facilitator Jim DiSanto, GM, Earthrise Technologies
Panelist Ray Jenks, Electric Vehicles and Energy Storage, Interstate Batteries
Presenting Entrepreneur Biswa Ghosh, VP of Engineering, Tula Technology
Presenting Entrepreneur Simon Saba, Founder and CEO, SABA Motors Inc.

Please join us in thanking our sponsors at KPMG and our hosts at SRI for their ongoing support of the series.

Clean Green Financing Options

July 13, 2011

FountainBlue’s July 11 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Clean Green Financing Options and featured:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Tobias Kraus, Manager of R&D Finance, Tesla Motors
Panelist Shannon Fraser, U.S. Export Assistance Center – Silicon Valley, US Department of Commerce
Panelist Matt Lecar, Principal, Smart Grid Center of Excellence, Energy Applications & Systems Engineering, GE
Presenting Entrepreneur Brian Farhi, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Solar Nexus
Presenting Entrepreneur Michael Niver, Director of Project Finance, SolarCity
We would like to thank our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and the series. Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists agreed that the lack venture fundings have impacted the industry overall, making it very difficult for all-but-the-best to secure funding. So those with the great technology innovations who were able to bootstrap the technology development, partner with corporates, academics and others, leverage government grants, and otherwise show traction for the their clean energy innovation are those who have gotten funding during the downturn, and are well positioned to receive funding now that there is more money in investment funds.
The panelists commented on venture funding opportunities and trends, predicting that there will be a shake-out in the venture industry, and only those who have proven investment track records will remain, a bifurcation between those who found money for their funds before the monies dried up and those that didn’t. The remaining investors will be chasing the entrepreneurs who have gone into hiding during the downturn, working with corporations, consulting, or developing in stealth mode. But the time will come soon when those investors and those entrepreneurs will again meet, and we shall all benefit from the union.
In regards to policy, our panelists advise us to collaboratively create aligned, stable, predictable, transparent, economic-based policies at the widest possible level which are based on research and facts, not arbitrary numbers and standards, which are transparent, easy-to-implement, fair, and spark technology innovation and getting sustainable products and services into the hands of consumers, businesses and utilities.
In general, clean tech companies are extremely capital-intensive, so our panelists advised entrepreneurs to create a solution which follows the strategy of software companies who can produce technologies and generate revenues more quickly. You may also opt to create a smaller-scale solution of the end product which shows the validity and scalability of both the technology and market. Below is additional advice from our panelists:
Work with the best people to deliver proven, measurable value.
• Work with the best and brightest who have a proven track record, an innovative technology and a large market. Then prove that the technology works and the customers are willing to buy it. It’s not about the volume or impact, it’s about working smarter to build momentum and credibility, making your company attractive and fundable.
• Create win-win partnerships with corporates in your space to validate technology and market, to leverage their financial resources and channels, as well as their space and infrastructure.
• Minimize risk as you grow your business and keep reaching for the next milestone, the next level and types of customers.
Be resourceful in addressing your funding needs.
• Leverage government grants to fund early stage development efforts as they generally don’t take much equity share. But wean yourself both from government grants and from customer incentives, rebates and policies as you want to prove that your business can stand on its own, and isn’t just a result of an artificial market.
• Build strategic and broad network with potential investors. Then ask for a large amount of money to do big things, but run your company leanly and efficiently.
Be strategic about your offerings, with an eye to the needs of the customer.
• Customers are interested in sustainable solutions, but may not want to invest the big check up front, so think of revenue model including financing and leasing that would help you win these customers over while growing your business.
• Consider building a strong residential base first to help you sustain your company are you expand to target corporations and utilities, who have much longer sales cycles.
• Don’t rely on stimulus dollars or other monies to stimulate the economy and the clean energy sector, but do partner with all stakeholders to foster quicker and easier adoption of rapidly-scalable, innovative, game-changing technologies.

Below are some suggestions for some hot new clean energy opportunities:
• Provide online infrastructure and support tools which would help current providers better communicate and better serve their customers, leveraging the best of todays technology enterprise solutions, from ERP to cloud to automation.
• As the industry matures, consider targeting niche markets – the long tail of the market.

In summary, note that success breeds success – the more you succeed and build traction and momentum, the more likely you are to earn more wins. And there are plenty of opportunities for the biggest and dirtiest industry on the planet. If all stakeholders work together to forge change, to spark entrepreneurship and innovation, we may see the biggest changes in our lifetime, and a more promising future for those who come after us.
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FountainBlue would like to thank and acknowledge our panelists for our July 11 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Clean Green Financing Options:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Tobias Kraus, Manager of R&D Finance, Tesla Motors
Panelist Shannon Fraser, U.S. Export Assistance Center – Silicon Valley, US Department of Commerce
Panelist Matt Lecar, Principal, Smart Grid Center of Excellence, Energy Applications & Systems Engineering, GE
Presenting Entrepreneur Brian Farhi, Vice President, Marketing & Business Development, Solar Nexus
Presenting Entrepreneur Michael Niver, Director of Project Finance, SolarCity
We would also like to thank our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and the series.

Software and Sensors in Green Tech

June 8, 2011

FountainBlue’s June 6 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Software and Sensors in Green Tech: Managing Our Energy Resources. Below are notes from the conversation.
With investor investments in clean energy more conservative today, capital-efficient energy efficiency companies are much more attractive than the renewable energy businesses from wind to biofuels to solar farms, and other renewables solutions requiring multi-million-dollar investments and a longer return cycle. So energy efficiency solutions that monitor and maximize energy consumption and minimize waste are much more attractive today.
And sensors and software work hand-in-hand in managing energy resources. Technology advances have enabled sensors to be smaller, more functional, more integrated and more ubiquitous. The problem is not that sensor technologies are not available. The challenge is that the software managing the data and the analytics in the solution must be customized to provide value to the user, and seamlessly integrated with existing sensors, appliances, networks, systems, etc so that users, whether they are home owners or facility managers or utilities, can make immediate informed decisions for proactively managing their energy resources.
Sensors and software must track and report on energy usage, and see patterns of where losses occur, either due to antiquated equipment, like old HVAC units or refrigerators, or even energy theft, where utilities might be interested in tracking where customers might be installing their own transformers into distribution grid.
Below is advice for entrepreneurs innovating in this space:
• Partner with high profile customers as customers, as channel partners, and as potential purchases.
• Partner with installers, retrofitters, HVAC companies, appliance companies, etc who would find your sensor and software solution a value-add for their customers.
• Integrate your solution with existing wifi network, appliances, sensors, etc.
• Respect the need for privacy around energy usage.
• Have solid sensor technology, but focus on software solutions which would add value and generate more returns more quickly.
• Do your part in supporting the creation of standards and policies that support innovation.
• Adopt an open source rather than proprietary standards and focus on solutions, not just more gadgets.
• When going into international markets, consider cultural/political/infrastructure factors such as standardization, which is easier in China, and infrastructure which may be more of a hurdle in India, and government subsidies, which you might see more of in Europe.
Below are some hot areas in the sensors and software space:
• Develop software solutions which communicate between sensors or report on energy usage across devices and appliances.
• Design energy efficiency solutions for commercial buildings where both facility managers and CFOs see a quick ROI
• Integrate sensors directly into the grid is in its infancy stage and will continue to evolve.
• Leverage business analytics and the power of data to efficiently understand not just usage, but also trends, and not just for the data, but to drive proactive, informed decision-making for the users.
• Leverage visualization to have rich data simply presented.
• Design solutions which would help consumers, facility managers, manufacturers, service providers and utilities proactively manage peak loads.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of opportunities within and outside the US. There may be more opportunities in the US as we have historically used more energy, hence there may be more opportunities to optimize the energy used. Plus corporations, manufacturers, consumers, investors, and entrepreneurs alike will find win-win sensor-and-software solutions which save both time and money.

We would like to thank and acknowledge the panelists for FountainBlue’s June 6 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Software and Sensors in Green Tech: Managing Our Energy Resources:
Facilitator Craig Lobdell, Director, CFO Advisory Services, KPMG
Panelist Rachel Pike, Analyst, Draper, Fisher Jurvetson
Panelist Aravindan Sankaramurthy, Director, Product Management, Oracle
Panelist Andrew Williamson, Director, Physic Ventures
Presenting Entrepreneur John Magnasco, CEO and Co-founder at Geneva CleanTech
Presenting Entrepreneur Mischa Steiner-Jovic, Awesense
Please also join us in thanking our sponsors at KPMG for sponsoring this event and for their ongoing support of the series.

Energy Generation Breakthroughs and Challenges

August 7, 2009

FountainBlue’s August 3 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum on the topic of Energy Generation Breakthroughs and Challenges featured:

• Facilitator Awais Khan, Director, Venture Capital Practice, KPMG
• Panelist Jonathan Forrester, Principal, Structured Transactions, PG&E
• Panelist Ripudaman Malhotra, Senior Scientist, SRI International
• Panelist Ryan Murr, Attorney, Goodwin Procter LLP
• Panelist Abe Yokell, Principal, Rockport Capital
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Fareed Sfard, CEO, Ahura Energy Inc.
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Jim DiSanto, CEO, BBE Energy
• Presenting Entrepreneur: Andres Wydler, CEO, Real Green Power

Below are notes from the conversation. The notes above are copyrighted by FountainBlue in 2006-09 and all rights are reserved. You have our permission to forward the notes on to others, to help support further discussion and connections, but please ensure that the notes are INTACT, and that there is proper acknowledgement for our speakers and to FountainBlue.

The Demand for Energy
As global consumption of energy moves from 3 cubic miles of oil a year today to almost 9 cubic miles of oil a year by 2050, due to population growth and growing affluence. People, companies and countries are challenged to meet the overwhelming demand for energy, delivered in a way that works with existing systems and infrastructure and policies. Even with a concerted and collaborative and global effort at conservation, we could reduce the projected demand to 6 CMO/year by 2050.

Even then we would have the challenge of generating more energy. Generating 1 CMO/year requires a battery of about 2500 one-GW nuclear power plants of energy. To meet this need, we would have to install one new nuclear plant, or one thousand wind turbines, or one quarter million roof to PV systems (2 kW each), each every week for fifty years, assuming the systems installed in the first year are still working. See the attached SRI report detailing our growing global energy demands.

Technology Advancements
Advancements in technologies for energy generation are being developed to meet the energy needs, however, finding cost-effective alternatives to fossil fuels remain a challenge. In solar generation for example, there are mechanical, optical, nano and other materials and system innovations, as well as business model and financing reforms, which would make it more attractive for people to adopt these technologies. Indeed, with hardware and software technology advancements AND the rising cost of power, we may in some regions approach grid parity, the point at which photovoltaic electricity is equal to or cheaper than grid power provided by local utilities, particularly in areas where there is plenty of sunshine and high energy rates.

Political and Social Factors Weigh In
Unfortunately, the political and social pressures are precluding energy generation options for different reasons related to safety, ecology, etc. There is continued and growing pressure from consumers to reduce the carbon footprint and produce energy at reasonable costs. With the overwhelming and increasing demand for energy, it is important to consider each energy generation option, from fossil fuel to nuclear to hydro, geo-thermal and other methods. It is important to work together and embrace the up-sides of these options, while working to mitigate the downsides through technology and policy and business model advancement. It is equally important to simultaneously remain unbiased during the decision-making process and focus on the bottom line results rather than on personal and political agendas at the personal, company and country levels.

Financing as a Hurdle
In addition, financing options for energy generation solutions can be quite expensive, and funding sources are limited, especially as venture firms continue to avoid capital intensive projects with projected returns beyond the 3-5 year mark. The vast majority of energy generation worldwide has been planned and paid for by government with some corporate support. Venture capital has played a very small role in energy and cleantech to date. So start-ups are challenged to come up with funds to de-risk their technology solutions sufficient to be worthy of additional investment. Options for financing include government grants and corporate partnerships.

The panel offered their insights on the opportunities ahead.
• Leverage opportunities provided by utilities like PG&E who are providing power purchase agreements which would encourage cost-effective production of energy ready to feed into the grid, particularly when there is the greatest demand – in the summers and during the afternoon hours. For more information, visit http://www.pge.com/includes/docs/pdfs/b2b/wholesaleelectricsuppliersolicitation/Feedin_Tariffs_FAQs.pdf
• Consider the various modules for the solution you are providing, and how technology innovation in any one component can increase the productivity of the overall system. For example, innovation in an inverter for solar panels, which accounts for roughly 7-10% of the overall cost of the panel, can maximize the output of the panels themselves, and also be cost-effectively manufactured.
• Consider the entrepreneurial opportunities around the storage of energy, including chemical (battery), compressed air, pumped hydro and other options.
• Although all sources of energy generation should be considered, some options will take a much larger investment to produce results. For example, tidal and wave energy might be a ready, natural and available energy source, but capturing it efficiently has historically been cost-prohibitive due to extremely harsh marine environment.

Leadership is Key
As we continue to face the growing global energy demands, the verdict is out on whether today’s leaders can maintain a bottom line perspective on our energy options, while showing political will power to deliver results which would benefit all. During this crisis, we need to focus on objectives. If it’s merely making life better for billions, we will need more energy. With climate change, we will need to solve new problems including effective desalination, building dykes and sensible zoning, amongst other challenges. In conclusion, we should all be informed and feel empowered to influence who leads and how they lead us through this problem-that-must-be-solved.

Clean Green Transportation Machines

July 31, 2009

FountainBlue’s July 2 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of Clean Green Transportation Machines and featured:

• Facilitator Lafe Vittitoe, Relationship Manager, Silicon Valley Bank
• Panelist Ann Chan, Director, California Programs, Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP)
• Panelist Brad Mattson, Partner, Vantage Point Venture Partners
• Panelist John Suh, General Motors
• Panelist Elise Zoli, Partner and Clean Tech Chair, Goodwin Procter LLP

Our presenting entrepreneurs were:
• Panelist Neil Maguire, VP of Business Development, Imara
• Panelist Fraser Smith, CEO, ElectraDrive
• Panelist John Zajac, CEO, Zajac Motors
• Forrest North, Mission Motors
• Lee Colin, Green Vehicles

Below are notes from the conversation.
Our panelists agreed that the transportation industry is at a crossroads, and policy, technology, business and other innovations are necessary to revitalize the industry. Success is dependent on focusing on the needs of the customer – from the economic need for cost-effective products and services, to the social need for eco-friendly products and services, to the individual needs for comfort, safety, convenience and speed. But success is also focused on a successful collaboration between various stakeholders, (including policy-makers, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, investors, providers, and others) who can work together to ensure the efficient delivery of products and services which would best suit the needs of the customers.

Transportation is such a broad category, with many opportunities for innovation – from software to fuels to hardware to infrastructure. Although there are many opportunities with such a broad category, entrepreneurs should consider barriers to innovation in any of these categories including:
• The large auto dealers are embracing new technologies and solutions, but manufacturing, distribution, sales and marketing channels pose challenges to adoption of these technologies.
• Infrastructure challenges from roads to mass-transit to fuel storage and distribution, to compatibility of fuels, parts, etc., make it more difficult to forge changes in the industry.
• Policy-makers may not be informed about the technology adoption challenges, or why it’s so important to help the large players in the transportation industry to adopt new technologies. This and other factors make it difficult for policy-makers to adopt policies that help the industry adopt changes which are an integral part of revamping the industry.
• Decision-makers in the automobile industry are trained and rewarded to be risk-adverse. Transformative cultural change needs to happen in these organizations in order to embrace the opportunities that change can provide.
• International companies are proving more nimble at adopting and leveraging new technologies, and competing with existing American products and services. There are even examples of how American innovation has been adopted by international organizations.
• The lack of a gas tax deters consumers from proactively electing more gas-efficient options.
• Development, testing, manufacturing, distribution, and other challenges are making it difficult for entrepreneurs to provide cost-effective products and services that compete well with existing offerings.
• Many transportation solutions require a huge financial investment, and investors who are leaning toward capital-efficient solutions are reticent to invest. However, with the federal stimulus package, dollars are still available, but entrepreneurs who are seeking those dollars need a new strategy to secure the funding, and policy-makers need to better explain the process for securing funding.

The panelists advised entrepreneurs to be nimble and innovative, while also focusing on strategic partnerships and investments, and finding a way to partner with corporate entities who may be resistant to the newest innovations. They also advised entrepreneurs to focus on modular solutions which would be compatible with the existing infrastructure, yet flexible enough to evolve with the infrastructure, while also ensuring that solutions address the larger objectives of climate change challenges and foreign oil dependency.

The panelists agreed that it will also take innovative approaches for the development, testing, manufacturing, and distribution of products and services, and entrepreneurs must partner with other stakeholders to realize real change in these areas. The odds and the challenges ARE overwhelming, with everyone having only ONE piece of the puzzle. But a positive attitude and a resilient disposition from all stakeholders are essential components for success.

Each panelist provided a different perspective about why all stakeholders should be heard during this crossroads in the industry. Working together, we can help policy-makers provide limits and constraints, and reconsider the allocation of subsidies, while also jumpstarting R&D efforts that would forge technological innovations benefiting customers worldwide. And working together, making small, incremental clean/green purchasing decisions every day (rather than focusing on one sexy killer app/solution, a panacea), and helping others make similar choices, entrepreneurs can lead the transportation industry out of this economic funk and into a new era of innovation for clean green transportation machines.

Resource:
Entrepreneurs and other clean energy stakeholders should consider leveraging the nonprofit think-tank Center for Clean Air Policy (CCAP) as a resource for providing policy recommendations to California climate policy decision makers. While CCAP is not an advocacy or lobbying organization, it does provide independent policy research and analysis (including economic and technical analyses) as well as stakeholder dialogue facilitation (to develop consensus type policy platforms with broad-based political support) in support of early stage clean tech companies and other stakeholders.

California’s progressive stance in the policy arena provides leadership for the rest of country – particularly with respect to fostering technological innovation, but there is always room for more innovative and better policies, and CCAP may be able to explore conduits for ensuring that the viewpoints and concerns of emerging companies are adequately communicated to state policy makers. For more information, visit http://www.ccap.org.

Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum: Local to Global Clean Energy Solutions

May 13, 2009

FountainBlue’s May 4 Clean Energy Entrepreneurs’ Forum was on the topic of “Local to Global Clean Energy Solutions” and featured:

· Facilitator Elise Zoli, Clean Tech Practice Lead, Goodwin Procter LLC

· Panelist Tony Chao, Associate, Applied Ventures

· Panelist Wayne Gluhan, Director of Sales and Principal, Raident Technologies

· Panelist Gerd Goette, Managing Partner, Siemens Ventures

· Panelist Andres Wydler, co-founder and shareholder, BPL Global

Below are note from the conversation:

In this day and age, adopting a local to global business strategy is both a necessity and a challenge for clean energy entrepreneurs. It’s a necessity as 1) global markets and products can be served through a global strategy, 2) global companies can take advantage of labor, financing and raw materials from countries around the world, 3) local presences in different countries across the globe make it easier to navigate taxes and regulations and other local requirements for doing business and 4) high-level corporate and investor partnerships require entrepreneurs to adopt and implement a global strategy.

However, with the time and finance challenges of early stage entrepreneurs, this becomes a bit of a challenge. Below are some pointers from our esteemed panel on how to make this work.

· Have an underlying global strategy and understand why, when and with whom you would partner to implement this strategy.

· Hire an experienced team with the international connections and mindset to plan and implement that strategy.

· Adopt a step by step, one continent at a time, approach.

· When going global as a young company, sometimes opportunistic decisions are made in the sales room rather than in the board room. In other words, the sales staff might be able to take advantage of serendipitous events through their established channels and relationships. And, provided that the strategy is in alignment with the overall goals and objectives of the company, this may be a good thing for the company, accelerating growth plans into a new market.

· Have the tools to manage international relationships so that you can leverage the advantages (a round-the-clock team in different geographic locations, less invested in salary, etc.) while minimizing the disadvantages (communication problems, task/role confusion, time zone issues, etc.).

· Design the product or service to serve the needs of customers around the globe, even if you’re not yet targeting that particular country or continent.

· Treat foreign employees as well as you would headquarter employees.

· Make it easy for your channel partners to sell to their local networks.

· Timing is everything – position yourself for serendipitous events by working hard and being persistent, and taking advantage of opportunities as they arise.

· Patent only your core technologies, and only in the predominant countries for which you plan to have a presence. Patents are expensive, and it may not be worthwhile to also file application specific patents in multiple countries as that would be expensive and time-consuming, especially for a small start-up.

o Consider that the patent protection period is about 18 months, and it might be a better option to be in stealth mode rather than announcing your technology through the patent issuance before your company is ready.

· Partner with strong, established, regional firms with the relationships and track record needed to help your business. It’s better to work with people with which you have a history, but sometimes entrepreneurs must just take that chance with a new entity, provided that due diligence has been performed, and that the partnership starts on a small projects initially.

o To find the right partner, turn to your personal network, and those of all those you trust in your network, quality service providers, peers, other partners and entrepreneurs, the US Department of Commerce, etc.,

o Consider doing a non-circumvent partnership agreement rather than an exclusivity agreement, which is not generally granted or an NDA, which may not provide adequate protection.

o It’s difficult to find the right partner on another continent, and sometimes you have to work with people in power who do not have the experience or judgment to make or drive a successful partnership.

· Consider acquisitions as part of your growth strategy, but if you do this make sure that you have a team experienced in managing this, and make sure that you start small, and that it’s the right/best way to grow, adding new products and markets which are in alignment with your company’s objectives.

· Consider your target market – whether it’s utilities or consumers or commercial, whether they are local or global.

The panel also discussed how the US compares with other countries around the world in different clean energy sub-industries. For example, Germany has a dominance in solar, with wind being prominent in Denmark, biofuels in Brazil, Renewables in the Middle East and nuclear in Japan and China. The US continues to lead in the smart grid and biomass areas, and with its capacity and history of reinventing itself, may again be a leader in other clean energy sub-industries. The bottom line is that there is a tremendous opportunity for clean energy solutions, and government investment and support has impacted the success of this nascent industry.

The panel ended with remarks about the current administration and the huge investment in growing US leadership in the clean green space – from simplifying the application process to focusing on helping specific companies to succeed, to the sheer volume of financial support – ten times more than venture investment dollars. Everyone is watching to see how these activities will help positioning the US to again assume leadership in clean energy technologies and businesses.