Earth2Tech's Predictions for 2008

We’ve spent some time looking back to 2007, so now it’s time to look ahead to 2008. Below are our predictions for the new year. (Also check out some excellent predictions from Clean Break).

Greentech Investment to Rise in 2008 — But So Will Valuations: Even more money? Yeah, that’s what it looks like; $2.6 billion was invested in the first three quarters of 2007 alone, and a survey by the National Venture Capital Association found that the majority of VCs think cleantech will attract higher levels of venture financing in 2008. But look out guys, valuations are expected to rise too…does that mean bubble? Well, in so many words, yes.

Energy Policy Will Be Crucial to the 2008 Election: While 2007 saw the monumental Energy Bill signed into law, energy regulation and security will become a crucial issue in the 2008 presidential election. The candidates are already using green business as a platform. Hillary Clinton says she wants to “reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050…and cut foreign oil imports by two-thirds from 2030 projected levels.” And even though he introduced the Coal-to-Liquid Fuel Promotion Act, Obama has recently moved to the greener side with his proposed “Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund.” Oh and we can’t forget the Republicans, especially since when we chose Huckabee as our top red state choice he was “a long shot.” But now maybe we’ll learn more about his “comprehensive plan for energy independence.”

Solar Installers to Join Forces: We will see a market consolidation of the solar installers in 2008. Even with the growth of solar photovoltaic installations for both residential and commercial markets, there are too many companies competing for too few deals. As Andrew Beebe, President of Energy Innovations, said earlier this year, the commercial solar “land grab” will indeed see some installers “come off the tracks.”

Installers like Energy Innovations, Recurrent Energy, SunPower, SolarCity, groSolar, and Akeena Solar will vie to sign large clients with lots of roof space — but the lean (5 to 15 percent) profit margins will speed up solar Darwinism. In 2008 we’ll also learn if solar financier/installer Citizenre can create a sustainable business or if it’s building a house of cards (hat tip Jeff Wolfe, CEO, groSolar).

Electric Vehicles Will Prove They Aren’t Toys: So maybe Tesla isn’t exactly on schedule with its plans — small startups and big car manufacturers alike will spend 2008 working out technology kinks and business models. Vinod Khosla recently referred to electric vehicles as toys, but we’re thinking next year electric vehicles will make some significant progress. What will the future of electric vehicles look like? We’re thinking it won’t be filled with expensive Tesla-style electric sports cars, but will be made up of cheaper, lower performing city vehicles, especially in developing countries, where consumers are avoiding the cost of fuel — anyone checked out India’s Reva lately?

Cellulosic Ethanol to Stall: Some minor steps will be taken toward cracking the cellulosic ethanol code, but the economics and sustainability of biofuels will still face challenges and won’t make the kind of progress expected in 2008. It will take several more years for the vehicle infrastructure and biomass technology to start to become more viable. In the meantime, Range Fuels is building out its thermochemical plant in Georgia.

Transmission Lines to Fall Short: In 2008, transmission line limitations will hinder the expansion of alternative power installations. Aging infrastructure/lack of new construction is the No. 1 challenge to reliability, according to a recent report released by the North American Electric Reliability Corporation.

The report says that not only will there be problems with traditional transmission from new “traditional” power plants, alternative power sources such as wind and solar will be even more difficult to connect adequately to the grid because they are often located far away and over treacherous terrain. So maybe Google can make a gigawatt of clean energy cheaper than coal, but until they start building out transmission lines, it will be difficult to get the power out. Unless they develop some kind of working wireless power. Hmmmmmm.

Craig Rubens contributed to this report.