With the economy in the tank and layoffs happening across the cleantech sector, the next-generation of technology to fight climate change has been losing a lot of financing options. But here’s a bright spot: wealthy donors. Stanford University announced this afternoon that it is launching a $100 million program for a new initiative, the Precourt Institute for Energy, $40 million of which is designated for the TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy.
The donation is one of the largest given for a specific program — Jay Precourt donated $50 million to the project, and Thomas Steyer and Kat Taylor donated $40 million. Other donors include Douglas Kimmelman, partner with Energy Capital Partners; Michael Ruffatto, president of North American Power Group; and the Schmidt Family Foundation. The funds will help bring in at least five new professors, 20 new fellowships and will also provide seed funding for new energy-related projects. This spring, Stanford will kick off that seed funding with a $2 million energy innovation business prize.
Update: Here’s some notes from a panel that included Google CEO Eric Schmidt, John Doerr, partner with Kleiner Perkins, Lynn Orr, the Director of the Precourt Institute for Energy, Sally Benson, director of Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP), Jim Sweeney, director of Stanford’s Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, and Jane Woodward, CEO of MAP.
Orr: The institute will work with at least 136 faculty across 21 disciplines.
Schmidt: None of the efficiency upgrades to Google’s buildings have really cost us materially because the payback is so short – around 18 months.
Doerr: Battery is the holy-grail. The US isn’t even in that race right now. Energy storage is very important.
I told Obama administration 6 things: 1). Use economic stimulus to create green jobs and smart grid. 2). Put a price on carbon. 3). Create a national renewable portfolio standard. 4). Set utility regulations and incentives so utilities are power partners to drive zero carbon environment. More money flows through markets in a day than in politics in a year. Lack of funding is near criminal. 5). Education, train them.
Schmidt: A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.