Cleantech Group’s List of 9 Predictions for 2009

    The Cleantech Group has published its annual list of predictions for the coming year, and the list includes a number of interesting and provocative ideas.

    The predictions, authored by Cleantech Group Executive Chairman Nicholas Parker, included:

  • #1 … Boom in Energy Efficiency Infrastructure. Parker predicted that due to the ability of energy efficiency technologies to create jobs, there would be increased investments in energy efficiency in 2009. Parker singled out modernizing the grid and insulating homes as two examples of likely continued investments, and noted that there is a “quadruple bottom-line benefit to focusing on energy efficiency.”
  • # 3 … Parker predicted that the U.S. will pass a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS) in 2009, along the lines of the RPS in California and numerous other states.
  • #8 … Parker predicted that companies would continue to acquire green growth assets, citing as an example Panasonic’s acquisition of Sanyo in late November, primarily because of Sanyo’s solar and battery divisions.

    Parker further predicted that investment dollars in clean tech companies would stabilize at $7 billion in 2009, after dropping off during the 4th quarter of 2008. He projected that the failure rate of early stage clean tech companies would double, from the traditional rate of 20% up to 40% in 2009. He attributed this fact to a desire by investors to focus their assets on the most promising companies in their portfolios.

    One of the more interesting suggestions in the article is that hybrid-electric or electric-drive vehicles use a lot more water than internal combustion engines.  This statement is based upon a report in Scientific American which found that the number of gallons of water depleted to travel 100 miles was as follows:

Ethanol = 130

Fuel Cell = 42

Plug in = 24

Gasoline = 7-14

    The Scientific American article stated that the electricity-generation industry relies heavily on water to generate electricity. While these figures may appear shocking, there is an explanation for these statistics.  Much of the electricity generation sector continues to rely on large hydro-electric plants to generate power.  

    The Scientific American statistics highlight a number of important points regarding clean tech.  First, the run up in food and commodity prices last year demonstrated that there is a connection between new biofuels and the price of food, and therefore any development of biofuel sources of energy will have to recognize this connection. In addition, much of the water which is “used” by electric vehicles or hybrid electric vehicles is not entirely lost. As utilities use large hydro plants to generate water, the plants spill out the water back in the rivers and streams, albeit not without disrupting the ecosystem.  On balance, internal combustion engines continue to cause far worse environmental damage than do hybrid-electric or full electric vehicles, even taking into account greater consumption of water. 

    The larger point is that large hydro dams are not “renewable” under the law for the purposes of satisfying the renewable portfolio standard requirements, and we do need to continue transitioning our power grid off of these non-renewable sources of power.  As the nationwide grid continues to become more renewable, hybrid electric and electric vehicles will eventually require less water to operate.