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John Doerr, Kleiner Perkins super VC, told a group of students, investors and entrepreneurs at the Berkeley Energy Symposium on Friday that “it’s almost criminal that we’re not investing more in energy R&D.” And Doerr, who’s firm has already put almost $300 million into clean technologies, is advocating several green policies to help fight this “crime”.
At the speech Doerr advocated a cap and trade system, a carbon tax to control CO2, an extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for 10 years, and a general increase in federal clean energy R&D. While most cleantech investors are calling for similar measures, Doerr is one of the few cleantech investors that has enough name recognition to help push policy forward. Well, other than his Kleiner partner Al Gore.
But Doerr noted that policy is both a unique tool and an impediment to cleantech ventures. Unlike investments in internet technologies and biotech, cleantech is powerfully subject to the whims of public policy. That’s why Doerr is so adamant about getting support for his favored policies. Doerr, in association with the American Council On Renewable Energy, recently sent a letter to Congress demanding the extension of the ITC and PTC before March 1st.
The bottom line is good policy, can basically lead to strong profits, Doerr said. “We’ve got to use policy to make the right outcome the profitable outcome and therefore the likely outcome,” said Doerr.
While he might moonlight as a policywonk, Doerr is well aware of the unique role that venture capitalists can play in solving the climate crisis. That’s finding the right innovator. “[VCs] will be successful if they find successful entrepreneurs. Turns out venture capitalists don’t do anything,” he joked.
Doerr singled out a few specific clean technologies which he is particularly excited about. “One of my favorites is solar thermal,” he said, siting Kleiner Perkins investment in Ausra which is currently working on a 177 megawatt power plant in southern California. He also said he still believes in biofuels, and that “cellulosic biofuels are a great big bullet that we have in our holster.” Beyond cellulosic, Doerr also spoke of the potential of genomic research to design mircoogranisms to efficiently metabolize waste into fuel.
In regards to his Nobel Laureate colleague, Doerr fielded questions about the imitable Gore. “What’s Al Gore going to do for Kleiner Perkins?” Doerr echoed. “A lot,” he quickly answered.