I attend programs on technology innovation, marketing and financing for entrepreneurs whenever possible. Yesterday I attended the CalTech/MIT Forum to hear Dr. Nathan Lewis speak on the need for clean technology and participate in a panel discussion on clean technology. He talked about global energy demand, the problems of CO2, sources of renewable energy, and solutions for storing energy.
Some of the highlights include:
- We will need to produce at least double our current supply of energy by 2050
- The best renewable source of energy is solar, but it’s expensive
- Caltech is working on making inexpensive solar cells from rust and fool’s gold
- To store the renewable energy we need we’d have to build one solar thermal system every second for 50 years
- Historically energy innovations take 40 years before they are generate energy
Much of Dr. Lewis’ keynote presentation and related materials are available on his web site.
The panel was moderated by Patricia Glaza, CEO of Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries Organization, a cross industry community based in Michigan that promotes clean technology development. She asked the panelists where they saw opportunities for growth in Clean Tech now.
Dr. Jeffrey Reed, Director of Marketing Development and Emerging Technologies at Sempra Energy, said renewable energy and storage of electricity with smart grid distribution are major opportunities.
Clean tech entrepreneur Diana Schultz, CEO of Cyber-Rain, said the biggest opportunity will come from conservation and efficiencies, because we can implement programs immediately and get results in 5-10 years. Cyber-Rain manufactures smart sprinkler and irrigation systems that sense weather and temperature to automatically control landscape irrigation.
Sean Arian, Director of Economic Development Strategy from the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, agreed with Diana Schultz and added transportation technologies to the list of opportunities. He talked about the City of L.A.’s pledge to go coal-free and generate 40% of its energy from renewable sources and 10% from solar by 2020. The city plans to replicate the Clean Trucks program at the Ports of Long Beach and L.A. in a similar clean technology program with L.A. Department of Water and Power.
My major take-aways from the program are that:
- The fastest and most cost-effective way to effect a solution to global-warming and increased demand for energy is conservation by all of us.
- The risks for the venture capitalists and regulated energy companies are too high to support needed levels of innovation. We need to find ways to reduce the risk so that everyone has the incentive and money to create renewable sources of energy.
- In our risk-averse investment environment, the going is tough for entrepreneurs. The panelists recommend having a compelling and bulletproof marketing messages and sales offers so that it is close to impossible for prospective customers to say, “No.”
- Don’t give up. The word that most of the panelists used when advising entrepreneurs how to break through is “tenacity.”
Photo credit: imagonovus on Flickr