How to Scale Up Bloom Energy? Bring In Commercialization Expert

How can buzzy fuel cell startup Bloom Energy move from its current early stage — a handful of customers and still high costs — to lower-cost mass market manufacturing? If you’re Bloom Energy backer Kleiner Perkins, you look to hire a commercialization expert with a long history in the fuel cell biz. Kleiner Perkins has hired Operating Partner Jan van Dokkum who will be tasked specifically with assisting greentech ventures toward commercialization (hat tip VentureWire and more in The Daily Startup).

Kleiner describes van Dokkum on its web site as having “many years of experience in building organizations to achieve rapid growth in the areas of sales, marketing, manufacturing, quality and supply chain development.” Specifically for Bloom’s sake, van Dokkum was president of fuel cell maker UTC Power for seven years and worked at Siemens for 17 years. He served as president and CEO of Siemens Power Transmission & Distribution for the last six years. Van Dokkum is also a member of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technical Advisory Committee and was chairman of the California Fuel Cell Partnership for 2 years.

Bloom must have had quite a few bright minds working on getting California’s utilities to spend over a year petitioning regulators for approval to implement its technology. Earlier this month the California Public Utilities Commission approved a request from PG&E and Southern California Edison to install fuel cells from Bloom Energy and FuelCell Energy on campuses in California. The total PG&E project will cost $20.3 million, plus operational costs of $9 million, while the SCE project will cost $19.1 million to install and $9 million in operation and maintenance costs. While those costs are slightly lower than a previous proposal, CPUC Administrative Law Judge Dorothy Duda wrote when she originally recommended to reject the project: “It is unreasonable to spend three times the price paid to renewable generation for the proposed Fuel Cell Projects, which are nonrenewable and fueled by natural gas.”

But Bloom needs more than utility partners to bring down costs and scale up production of its fuel cells. NEA partner and Bloom backer Scott Sandell said at Bloom’s launch that the company could drop the cost of the Bloom Box by 60-70 percent over the coming years (here’s a little video clip on how Sandell thinks Bloom can get there).

Kleiner also needs a commercialization expert to help another portfolio company scale up: Amyris Biotechnologies. The synthetic biology biofuel maker plans to IPO this year in order to raise funds to help reach commercialization and needs to hit specific manufacturing milestones to keep its business running.

More research on Bloom Energy on GigaOM Pro: Bloom Energy and Data Centers – Perfect Together? (subscription required).

Image courtesy of Bloom Energy

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