How to invent a clean energy company

The common view of invention is that it is unexpected. The people who do it are extraordinary individuals. There are risk takers but also naturally creative geniuses. Ancient Archimedes came up with his theory of buoyancy by his spontaneous revelation, a “eureka moment” in a bath.

In the 19th century, August Kekulé invented our theory of chemical structure. This made industrial chemistry possible and thus much of our modern life. One of his central discoveries came after he day-dreamed an ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail, and this metaphor became his notion of the circular ring of six carbon atoms, a crucial base unit in organic chemistry.

Charles Edison was a freakishly inventive man with more patents than many countries and progenitor of General Electric and another dozen companies. And Albert Einstein was, well, Albert Einstein.

The Democratisation of Energy

Technological developments are already blurring the line between producers, distributers and consumers. Companies are increasingly looking for opportunities to become power producers in the new urban energy rush and could become significant contributors in the future.

According to Arup, transactive energy systems will enable prosumers – those who design things for their own needs – to respond to triggers such as energy price and grid frequency in real time. As Alan Thomas, head of global energy systems at Arup, points out however: “It’s what you do with this that counts, without a surrounding ecosystem it’s like having an iPhone without any apps.”

Research by Arup and Siemens indicates that the value to end-users of distributed energy systems investment is significant. Operational cost-reductions ranging between 8 and 28 per cent and a return on investment between three and seven years were observed, based on a series of modelled case studies around the world.  The revenue potential is also high.

The National Grid urgently requires more flexibility to manage the grid and its ancillary services market, with different types of capacity required to deal with demand and supply imbalances, is expected to be worth around £2 billion by 2021.

9 New Clean Energy Technologies Chosen To Power The Next Generation

NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept accelerator is ready for another year of helping to catalyze the commercialization of research-derived clean energy technologies. After months of meetings at colleges and universities across NYS, the NEXUS-NY team has selected 9 rockstar clean energy innovations that have major potential to power innovation, and fuel the future.

The Future Of Energy : Sector Outlook Post-Paris

It would be big news for any country to invest $50 billion in renewable energy to generate 10 gigawatts of wind and solar power by 2023. However, when the nation concerned is Saudi Arabia – the Gulf State that possesses nearly one fifth of the planet’s proven reserves of petroleum and ranks as the largest global exporter – the story takes on another dimension.

It should not, though, come as such a surprise. In the era of the grand energy transition, we have entered a world where renewable is now the new normal and, to some extent, we have Paris to thank for that.

Much has happened since 195 countries adopted the first universal, legally binding climate deal to limit global warming below 2C, as signatories to the COP21 Paris Agreement, 2015. The normalising effects are far reaching, says Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“Perhaps the biggest impact of the Paris Agreement is that the shift to a low-carbon economy is now seen as inevitable over some extended timeframe, not pie in the sky,” he says.

“So now, completely mainstream investors are asking companies about climate risk and stranded fossil assets. And in industry after industry, right through the supply chain, it is clear a lower environmental or climate impact can be a source of competitive advantage, driving a surge of innovation.”

New class of transformative green finance instruments for India

The India Innovation Lab for Green Finance has selected three new ideas for green finance instruments to move forward for further analysis, development, and preparation for piloting. The new instruments for the India Lab’s 2016-2017 cycle could help catalyze millions of dollars for clean energy and sustainable urbanization in India.

Through an open call for ideas, the India Lab received a record number of 72 innovative idea submissions. After an initial screening of these ideas, on February 21st, Lab Members met in New Delhi to select the top three ideas based on their actionability, innovation, catalytic potential, and financial sustainability.

Five Steps To Build A Startup Ecosystem In Your City

According to a Kauffman Foundation report, in the US,"new businesses account for nearly all net new job creation and almost 20 percent of gross job creation." It's no wonder there is so much hype about emerging startup ecosystems, and so much new focus on supporting startups from governments.

But what often gets lost in all the hype is how sustainable startup ecosystems are actually created.

For example, it pains me every time I see a press release from the government of an area with no startup ecosystem that decides to dump millions into shiny facilities to "spur local startup innovation." More often than not, these initiatives end up providing a great photo opportunity and a hip workspace for local freelancers to code while sitting in beanbags, but little else.

Similarly, I see a lot of government venture funds investing in the best companies in their locales, whether these companies have found product-market fit or not. Not only do these efforts provide improper validation to businesses before they are ready, they are also an egregious waste of taxpayer money.

Solar Market Smashing Records

In its biggest year to date, the United States solar market nearly doubled its annual record, topping out at 14,626 megawatts of solar PV installed in 2016.

This represents a 95 percent increase over the previous record of 7,493 megawatts installed in 2015. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) previewed this data in advance of their upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight report, set to be released on March 9.

The ‘New Normal’ in America: Renewables Boom

After decades of technology development, business model innovation and policy progress, the U.S. economy is now decisively growing -- independent of energy consumption and carbon emissions.

Since 2007, U.S. GDP has grown by 12 percent, while energy consumption has fallen by 3.6 percent, according to the new 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) for the Business Council for Sustainable Energy (BCSE).

This year’s fifth edition report builds on last year’s Factbook findings that show the U.S. economy grew by 10 percent since 2007, while energy consumption fell by 2.4 percent. “In other words, energy productivity continues to improve as less and less energy is needed to fuel growth,” the authors wrote.

Microgrids on the March: Utilities Building New Business Models

Pulling a cohesive narrative out of the DistribuTech conference’s thousands of participants and menagerie of electrical doohickeys is like synopsizing James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Amid the cacophony, however, a few trends emerged. The sophistication of software used to manage an increasingly decentralized grid continues to grow, as Jeff St. John observed. Meanwhile, utility representatives expressed caution about the dislocations stemming from that decentralization.

"Our main charge is to make sure our customers have reliable power," said James Boston, manager of market intelligence at San Antonio utility CPS Energy, which recently deployed a demonstration microgrid. "Utilities are generally cautious to make sure these things are tested, are proven, before we put customers’ reliability in any type of jeopardy."

Transforming the Energy Economy : Global Startup-Utility Accelerator

On a recent Monday evening, Danny Kennedy, the director of the California Clean Energy Fund, stood in front of a crowd of dozens of energy industry insiders in Dubai.

“Steve Jobs used to say you should cannibalize yourself every couple of years or someone will come eat your lunch,” he said. “Seems like the utilities in the room have started to invite the cannibals to the crowd.”

The utilities he referred to are major utility companies from all around the world that, despite deep-pockets and massive customer bases, have been slow to adopt to an energy economy that is quickly evolving toward renewable resources like wind and solar power. Moreover, those same utilities are finding themselves eclipsed by startups that are quick to experiment with new technologies that can more efficiently harness the power of renewables and while engaging with those customer bases.

Building a Cohort : Energy Excelerator

You can read about why we selected each individual company below, but looking at the cohort as a whole is equally important.

The Energy Excelerator approach is to think in systems. This means we look for ways to connect the right people, companies and solutions to accelerate our path to 100% clean energy, not just in Hawaii, but across the world.

What does our selection process look like? Well, it includes a whole lot of listening. We listen to the needs of our Global and Local Partners — the organizations that will be deploying technologies alongside us and our companies. We listen to the market — gauging the impact policy and regulation can have on innovation, and we listen to our companies — some of the most innovative minds in energy, water, transportation, agriculture, and cybersecurity. In fact, 2 of the 12 companies in our 2017 cohort came from direct referrals from companies in our portfolio.

Energy Is The New Internet

If you’re not paying attention to what’s going on in energy, you should. We’ve seen this movie before. Spoiler alert: There’s massive economic opportunity ahead. How massive? Imagine standing in 1992, knowing that Google, Akamai, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon, eBay, BuzzFeed and Uber lay ahead.

This time it’s the “enernet,” not the internet, that will transform our lives. The story is the same, though the players have changed.

Here’s the tee up. Across the country, incumbent network providers operate highly centralized networks in their respective cities. Then, scrappy local outfits start serving the market with innovative, distributed technology. These startups create competition, and a new network emerges atop the legacy network.

Renewables Now Cheapest, But How To Enable Faster Renewable Energy Growth?

Renewable energy is now the cheapest option, on average, for new electricity capacity around the world — in developed countries like the US as well as developing countries like India, China, Nigeria, and Mexico. As I noted the other day, we need tokeep channeling this message to the broader public, and especially decision-makers, but there are other things to do as well in order to increase the rate of renewable energy growth.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has projected that we need to double renewables globally by 2030 (combined with solid progress on energy efficiency) if we are going to keep global warming below 2°C. Clearly, direct governmental investment into renewable energy programs is one great way to do that. As one such example of strong policy action, China just announced that it plans to invest $360 billion into renewables by 2034 and has stopped construction or planning on over 100 coal plants. That’s vision and leadership.

Midwest startups compete for clean-tech investment funding

Midwest startups compete for clean-tech investment funding

A Chicago-based clean tech accelerator is giving eight student-led startups the chance to win tens of thousands of dollars in early-stage funding and to compete in a national competition later this year.

The Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP) is an annual competition hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy and Spark Clean Energy, a nonprofit that promotes university-level energy innovation. Clean Energy Trust, the Midwest host and coordinator for Cleantech UP, announced the regional finalists in a blog post this week.

Blockchain meets Energy: Building the Community

Blockchain meets Energy: Building the Community

Leveraging blockchain technology in exchanges of electrons and data makes sense. It’s great at securely processing transactions and registering ownership, meaning lower costs and increased transparency. It also allows users to enter smart contracts, potentially enabling prosumers to automate their electricity sales and purchases. Similar benefits apply in IoT, where an increasing number of devices need to communicate with each other, and using decentralized networks could prove more secure, reliable and affordable.

The Benefits of a Clean Energy Economy

The Benefits of a Clean Energy Economy

We all know the science. The United States and the world as a whole must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent or more by 2050 in order to significantly reduce the risks posed by unabated climate change. Intensifying droughts and heat waves, inundation of coastal economies brought on by sea level rise, and increasing wildfires and extreme weather events across the United States are only some of those intensifying risks.

What Does it Take to Transform a Place?

Over the past 3 years, as we built a portfolio of 50+ companies solving the world's biggest problems, two things stick out amongst our many lessons learned:

1. Although our energy, water, agriculture, and transportation problems are global; it's solutions must be rooted in local communities. 
2. Without people to move the needle, the most innovative technologies sit on the shelf. 

If you believe that local change = global impact, share this video with your community––those working with you to create local change to solve global problems.


The Energy Excelerator Team

BDC boosts clean-technology venture fund

The Business Development Bank of Canada is committing an additional $135-million to its venture fund that supports Canadian clean-technology startups which offer products and services to improve energy efficiency in businesses.
“Our goal is to intensify our support for innovative Canadian entrepreneurs who are leading the way in the transition to a low-carbon economy,” Jerome Nycz, BDC Capital’s executive vice-president, said in a statement to be released Wednesday.

Cleantech Startups See The 'Smart City' As New Avenue For Investment

After years as a venture-capital pariah, clean-technology startups are rebranding themselves to capitalize on the quest to build a smart city.

Cleantech companies, whose missions are broadly linked to environmental improvement, are benefiting as municipalities around the world embrace smart cities — where internet-connected devices collect data that can be used to address challenges from energy efficiency to traffic, crime and public health.

The smart city market, expected to balloon to $1.57 trillion by 2020, according to a 2014 report from research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, is a way for cleantech startups to revive venture interest after the sector's reputation suffered from failed experiments in areas like solar panels and biofuels in the 2000s.

Hard-up startups come up with unique energy efficient products

Cleantech startups need investor support, says Karthik Chandrasekar, CEO of Sangam Ventures, who mentored some startups. “A lot of them are working on signific ant pain points faced by Indian consumers and industries. 

These have a great long-term, secular growth story where the opportunity does not go away like in ecommerce, as soon as the top player emerges or gets acquired.” He says these ventures can provide great returns and exits to investors and become high-growth SMEs.