Cleantech's Enigmatic Future

I would really like to be in Boston next week. If I was, I’d be hanging out at the Hynes Convention Center. The Conference on Clean Energy is in town and after listening to Xconomy’s podcast previewing the show, I’m even more curious to hear what the insiders will be saying about funding, government and policy, and the hottest cleantech industries.

Cleantech and VCs remain inextricably tied, which consumed much of the recent discussion with Jon Karlen from venture firm Flybridge Capital Partners and Russ Landon with Canaccord Adams, a research and investing firm. However, I found some of their points of view very interesting:

  • Government funding is a blessing and a curse. Landon discussed the two sides of the rush win federal money, primarily pointing out that a windfall courtesy of the U.S. Government can be an excellent booster shot for cleantech companies, but they must have the private capital to sustain them over the long term. It’s no mystery that things move slowly in Washington and Landon made another memorable point about the result of slow flowing dollars on cleantech: delayed innovation. He says it’s not a death sentence, but it can slow down progress.
  • Solar is rapidly changing. The way I understood it, solar startups are not the most attractive investment these days.  In fact, I think I heard the word “lousy” in there. While New England remains a hub for solar, both guests agreed that the industry will go through a “bloody” process to filter out the small and determine who be (or become part of) the large solar survivors
  • Smart grid is hot. This term is constantly evolving to include many types of technologies involved in moving electricity around more efficiently.

Of course, I want to know about my clients industries and issues that affect them. If I were in Boston next week, I might ask:

  • What’s next for wind? Will new technologies coming out of startups and smaller companies drive the industry forward?
  • Energy efficiency in the industrial space went no where in Washington. Can partnerships with larger companies push this to the surface?
  • General consensus is that regional cleantech groups like New England Clean Energy Council are effective and helping keep a strong New England presence in the market.  Is there more they should be doing?
  • What are the odd-ball, fringe cleantech companies that caught your eye this year? 

Unfortunately, CCE will go on without me and I’ll read all about it from D.C. Good thing I’ve decided to spend that time realigning my smart grid new business strategy.  To listen to Wade Roush’s podcast please click here or you can follow him on Twitter @wroush.

Contributed by Jennifer Eberline. Follow her @jeberline

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