You’re going to get a lot of these year-in-review posts over the next two weeks until the Snooki-filled ball drops, closing out 2010. Since influencers are what makes the greentech industry world go round, we thought we’d bring you the 10 individuals we think had the biggest effect on the greentech sector this year. Some are obvious, and some may be surprising, but here’s who we thought changed the landscape for better or for worse:
1. DOE Secretary Steven Chu. An obvious one, but Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu had arguably the biggest influence on the greentech sector in 2010. The DOE has funneled billions from the stimulus package into greentech sectors across the smart grid, green cars, energy efficiency, carbon capture and sequestration, and clean power. As a scientist he “gets” the issues, and also is on the cutting edge calling for open research and collaboration. I’m clearly a fan.
2. Bloom Energy CEO KR Sridhar. While it’s not entirely clear how successful the oh-so-buzzy fuel cell company Bloom Energy will be in the long run, it’s clear that in 2010 Bloom Energy ruled the mainstream green tech news. Heck, the company’s launch dominated our top 10 most read stories of 2010. The combo of the eight years of stealth mode, the Kleiner Perkins backing, the Colin Powell connection, the 60 Minutes launch and the high-profile first customers blew the rest of the green tech industry’s PR attempts out of the water. To me, that says the greentech industry is still very small, and is craving a success story.
3. Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Another easy choice. Tesla CEO Elon Musk helped the Silicon Valley electric car startup climb a mountain in 2010. 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 (above $30 today). Now about those two more years ’til the Model S comes out…
4. Kleiner Perkins Caufield, Byers Partner John Doerr. While Kleiner seems to be pulling back a bit from its greentech ambitions, the Valley’s most well-known venture firm shaped the greentech investing landscape of 2010. In particular, Doerr commonly spoke throughout the year about the massive market size of greentech and the importance of federal energy R&D. If the firm does pull back significantly from greentech, it will also have wide influence on the rest of its greentech VC peers.
5. Philanthropist Bill Gates. For the first time, the Microsoft founder and billionaire philanthropist took an interest in energy and green tech in 2010. Gates’ coming out party to greentech was his TED speech in February 2010, and since that time, he’s unveiled investments in startups like nuclear firm TerraPower and efficient engine tech EcoMotors. He’s also put money in Vinod Khosla’s fund. The technologist brings a new perspective to the industry, pointing out Moore’s Law doesn’t apply to batteries and the pace of innovation in the sector has been very slow.
6. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn. Ghosn has been one of the most outspoken and aggressive auto CEOs when it comes to electric cars. He sees “a big future” for the company’s upcoming electric car, the LEAF sedan, and has also partnered with Silicon Valley EV infrastructure company Better Place. Ghosn said this summer that Nissan was in “crisis mode” and the company’s future looks to be resting on EVs.
7. DOE’s Loan Chief Jonathan Silver. Just about one year into his role heading up the Department of Energy’s loan program office, former venture capitalist Jonathan Silver believes the agency has come a long way from its first few years of neglect and delays. He told us in a recent interview that the loan program functions “as well as, and possibly better” than private counterparts, when you consider the scale and complexity of the projects it’s meant to support. Not that there haven’t been hiccups and hurdles in the process.
8. GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt. GE has made one of the biggest bets on clean power and energy efficiency products with its Ecomagination line. Whether it’s wind turbines, smart meters, energy efficiency technology, power grid batteries, or its new electric car charger, GE has its fingers across the greentech sector. The company even got creative this year with its launch of a smart grid fund, where companies can compete for funding from GE and a group of venture capitalists.
9. NRG Energy CEO David Crane. The CEO of power company NRG Energy, David Crane, led the company to make massive investments in solar projects, including its most recent plan to spend up to $450 million in equity over four years on a 250-megawatt project being developed by SunPower. NRG Energy is also building what it says is the first privately funded electric vehicle infrastructure project. Crane was also a regular on the greentech speaking circuit in 2010.
10. Executive Secretary for the UNFCCC Christiana Figueres. After a disastrous U.N. climate meeting in Copenhagen in 2009, the Cancun negotiations in 2010 were able to complete one task: They saved face for the UNFCCC process. That’s actually a pretty big deal. Thanks can go in part to Christiana Figueres, who held the negotiations together and rallied the troops. Now we’ll see if she can push for an actual agreement from countries before the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. While the greentech industry tends to feel disconnected from this process, the agreement (or lack there of) that will come out of these negotiations will be fundamental to greentech business.
To read more on greentech policy check out GigaOM Pro (subscription required):
- Predictions for the Greentech Marketplace in 2011
- Smart Algorithms: The Future of the Energy Industry
- Report: Cleantech’s Third Quarter Growing Pains
Image courtesy of mickeysucks.