Let’s face it: there were quite a few hurdles for the overall green tech sector in 2010, including a dramatic drop in early stage and overall greentech VC investments in the most recent quarter, the largely unanticipated consumer backlash over smart meters and a lack of a successful U.S. energy bill.
But there are still a whole grip of positive things that happened to, and grew out of, the greentech industry in 2010. Here are my 10 things to be thankful for in greentech to chew on over your tofurkey:
1). Energy Efficiency Policy: The U.S. federal government might not have passed a comprehensive energy bill this year, but it managed to give a lot of support for energy efficiency policies. Earlier this month, Vice President Joe Biden announced a pilot program called the Home Energy Score, through which the government will offer software and guidelines for energy audits. Then there’s the informally called Cash for Caulkers, or the Home Star Energy Retrofit Act of 2010, which managed to pass the House in May and authorizes the creation of a national incentive program to invest $6 billion over two years in helping homeowners save money on their energy bills. It’s still waiting to pass the Senate — so perhaps there will be more good news on this in 2011.
2). The Nissan LEAF: Oh how I heart Nissan’s all-electric LEAF car. It doesn’t have a back-up internal combustion engine, like its chief competitor GM’s Volt, it’s the cheapest mainstream EV on the market, and it’s way cute. We test drove it for our Green Overdrive show, and it drives just like a smooth, almost-luxury car. Now we’ll just have to see how many LEAFs Nissan will be able to get into the hands of consumers over the next year, and whether owners will be worried about “range anxiety” at all.
3). The Mother Lode (AKA the Stimulus Package): Yep, we thanked it last year, too, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving (well, until it runs out and all of the mistakes in it start showing up). The stimulus package allocated tens of billions of dollars for loans, loan guarantees and grants for clean power, energy efficiency, energy storage and the smart grid.
4). Google’s Green Power Risk Taking: Thanks Google! You take risks in mobile, advertising, book-scanning, you name it. And over the past year you’ve really ramped up the interesting moves in clean power. Whether it’s creating your own Google Energy subsidiary (which can buy and sell energy), or investing in cleantech startups or backing offshore wind cables, we like your style.
5). Cali Deserts to Bloom With Solar: It finally looks lie California’s deserts will bloom with glass mirrors, concrete, steel blocks and giant turbine generators to produce electricity from the sun. Several massive solar thermal projects are just starting to get approval to be built on public lands from the Federal Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission. Well, that is if the environmentalists don’t stop ’em.
6). Greener Data Centers Finally Compete: With Google and Yahoo investing significantly in making their data centers more energy efficient this year, it’s clear that cutting the energy needed to power servers is finally becoming a competitive advantage. That’s what the green data center startups, which are selling software, services, sensor networks, and low power chips, want to hear.
7). Tesla: Silicon Valley’s electric car startup Tesla has had more than its fair share of speed bumps along its path to produce high-end electric vehicles. But in 2010 Tesla, quite frankly, rocked it. The company had one of the only successful greentech IPOs out there, it scored a key OEM deal with Toyota, it bought the NUMMI plant for cheap, and its stock keeps climbing (last look at $34). Now about those two more years til the Model S comes out.
8). California Voters: California had a couple of big decisions to make in terms of greentech during November’s election. And thankfully they voted pro-green. California voters solidly defeated Proposition 23, which would have basically suspended California’s climate change bill AB32, and also voted in pro-greentech gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown as Governor. A speaker at our Green:Net event, and an early proponent of clean power, Brown has a green jobs plan in the works.
9). Car Sharing: People who join car sharing services are more likely to embrace the so-called sharing economy, that’s been kick-started by the web. Zipcar, a decade old startup with the country’s largest car-sharing network, has a fleet of 7,000 vehicles and more than 400,000 members, and is planning an IPO. According to forecasts from research firm Frost & Sullivan, the number of drivers using car-sharing networks increased 117 percent between 2007 and 2009 in North America.
10). China’s Greentech Push: Even though many investors, entrepreneurs, pundits and policy makers are worried about China over taking the U.S. as a greentech leader, China will still do more than any other country when it comes to turning green tech from pilot project into production. So-called “China scale” will be needed to deliver cheap enough solar power, carbon sequestration technology and electric vehicles. So, um, thanks China.
For more research on cleantech financing check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
- Cleantech Financing Trends 2010 & Beyond
- Report: IT Opportunities in Electric Vehicle Management
- Car Data As the Next Platform for Innovation
Image courtesy of TomHiggins.