cleantech insights

Energy innovation opens doors for the world’s 1.3B “energy-poor”

Josh Seidenfeld

InterSolar is on this week in San Francisco. While it’s been a rough year for the upstream folks, and the tradeshow floor may have a New-Year’s-Day-hangover feel about it (notable exception: the focus on the burgeoning energy storage field), some bright spots emerge. As I nurse my own hangover from last night’s Solar Battle of the Bands, I’m reflecting on a terrific side-event that featured some of the world’s most exciting energy innovators.

The Bay Area Energy Access Working Group (a name only an engineer could love) yesterday convened entrepreneurs blazing pathways out of energy poverty. The group, hosted by at Google’s San Francisco offices, shared new approaches to delivering energy services to some of the 1.3 billion energy-poor people across the globe. New financial tools, new communication technologies, and new business models drive energy innovation in the developing world just as they do in the rich world. The event’s three panels addressed these drivers.

Finance innovation might be the most important current development. Many of the technologies used to deliver life-altering energy services to off-grid, rural communities have long been established. Solar lanterns come to mind. Now, though, we require the money to deploy these technologies at scale. …


Cleanweb NYC Hackathon: Top 3 Unsung Winners

Greg Neichin

On the same weekend that the Giants broke the 49ers hearts, Sunil Paul playfully added some insult to injury in the bicoastal rivalry by declaring, “New York has stepped up with an event [cleanweb hackathon] that is, dare I say, bigger than San Francisco.”  And while, as a true bicoastal executive, I have no interest in stoking the cliché Silicon Valley v. Silicon Alley fire, we can safely say that New York represented this past weekend.

The New York cleanweb hackathon organizers, which included Sunil, Blake Burris of Dynamo Labs, Micah Kotch from NYC ACRE, Nicholas Eisenberger of Pure Energy Partners, Matt Solt of Civvic, and a number of others, put on a great show and took a big step forward in evangelizing the cleanweb movement.  Judging by the turnout, the “cleanweb”, the increasingly popular term for applying IT solutions to global resource constraint problems, is a hit amongst the East Coast digerati (even meriting an appearance by NYC’s trendminting venture capitalist Fred Wilson, who had previously cast off cleantech as an entirely separate form of VC).

There were a number of awards presented at the end of the event to standout teams (check …

Don’t let large-scale solar eclipse the market for the poor.

Daniel Coles

Whilst being a massive advocate for the push to make solar technology more affordable to reduce the industry’s reliance on feed in tariffs, I have come to realise it has somewhat taken the attention away from another important application of solar: to provide light for people in developing countries. It is a market that is potentially worth billions.

Currently 1.6 billion people live without electricity, with the majority of them burning kerosene to produce light. This comes with numerous problems: kerosene lighting is more expensive per unit of light than what we pay in the developed world for electric lighting, and there are huge health implications attached with using kerosene – breathing in the indoor air pollution from kerosene lamps is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day! Furthermore the environmental effect of 1.6 billion people using kerosene fuel accounts for approximately 9% of global carbon emissions from lighting.

So the challenge we are now facing is to make solar lighting products available to developing world countries at an affordable price. Easier said than done.

Currently there is not one proven approach to market entry for providing solar energy in developing rural areas. Each country differs in terms …

What matters in cleantech corporate relationships

Josh Gould

One of our major research focuses here at Cleantech Group is corporate-to-corporate relationships.  We track them in i3 for our research subscribers.  We also capture them in our market map (see the picture above).  We spend so much time on relationships because we believe they have an outsized influence on cleantech relative to other industries. 

Why?  That is worthy of a post in itself but a few quick reasons include market share (in lighting, for instance, just 3 players have a combined 50% share of the market), importance of customer and channel access (e.g., governmental and utility clients whom are difficult for startups to reach),  influence with regulators, and the mutually dependent relationship between  large, slower-growing company balance sheets and the often superior ability of smaller companies to innovate.

So let’s say you agree with our thesis that corporate relationships matter in cleantech.  But what really matters in these relationships?  That is also a topic worthy of a much longer post but here’s a few initial thoughts:

  1. Number: The number of relationships a company is a (albeit imperfect) proxy for the influence a company wields.  A few examples of relationship numbers representing influence include GE and Schneider Electric
  2. Type: We here at Cleantech Group track whether a relationship is an investment,

All of the Lights: Not LEDs, says Lumiette

Josh Gould

Even those with only cursory exposure to the lighting industry have heard about LEDs (light-emitting diodes).  Extremely energy efficient and manufactured in a process analogous to semi-conductors, LEDs have spawned a tremendous amount of corporate activity – from heavyweights like Philips making major LED pushes, to high profile startups like Bridgelux and Lemnis Lighting (all of which we cover in our lighting industry analysis here).

But despite all the LED hype – which is particularly strong here in an innovation hub like Silicon Valley – has anyone stopped to recognize that over 80% of the installed base of lights are still “old school” fluorescents and incandescents?  And have all those LED enthusiasts encountered some of the (admittedly debatable) complaints about LED light color and quality?  Further, does anyone realize that the biggest ESCOs like Johnson Controls are still almost entirely swapping old fluorescent fixtures for newer ones, instead of installing LEDs or fancy lighting controls systems?

Lumiette is a Silicon Valley based flourescent lighting startup playing to these contrarian facts.  Founded in 2007 by lighting and semiconductor industry veterans, the company has IP around an ultra-efficient, flat panel lamp with cathodes on the exterior; moving the electrode

Is cleantech a service industry?

Josh Gould

Services, as any economist would tell you, are hugely important to the economies of developed countries.  In the European Union, where this post is being written (I’m here for our wonderful Amsterdam event), services make up 71% of the economy.  In the US, it is even higher (at 77%).  In fact, it’s likely that you – the reader – are part of the service economy.

Against this service-centric economy, popular media has often portrayed cleantech as a starkly different type of industry – one that is manufacturing-centric and commodity-reliant.  Think of utility scale wind turbines, or solar manufacturing, or even hybrids.  And these examples illustrate the stereotype is not entirely off the mark.  But we at Cleantech Group believe the next wave of cleantech will be much more heavily focused on services.  Here are just a few examples of where and how this is happening, in cleantech-sectors stereotyped as “dumb” or hardware-centric:

  • Lighting: Innovation in lighting types (e.g., LED, OLED, etc.) is extending the operational life of fixtures up to 100,000 hours.  While this is excellent for consumers, it challenges the traditional, large lighting companies’ business models of selling fixtures, waiting a few years, and selling the consumer new fixtures when the

Hup Holland Hup: Cleantech Goes Dutch

David Cheng

Next week, a few of my colleagues will descend upon the Netherlands for Cleantech Forum Amsterdam on May 9-11.  The theme of the marquee European cleantech event is “Cleantech Goes Corporate.”  Cleantech Group often has an international perspective on cleantech innovation.  For this week’s blog post, I’d like to point out some of the cleantech innovation and deployments coming out of the Netherlands.…

India, Cleantech and Cricket: 1.1 Billion People Can’t Be Ignored

David Cheng

A few weeks ago, my Facebook exploded at 4AM.  My South Asian friends from around the world descended upon my activity feed to cyber cheer on India during the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final (I unfortunately do not have any Sri Lankan friends to balance out the pro-India crowd).  While I was ignorant about cricket, I knew from my friends’ enthusiasm that this wasn’t just a game but also a declaration of India’s pride on an international scale.  This is something I know a bit about having cheered on Team USA in South Africa at the FIFA World Cup last summer.  So I did a little digging while the match was going on (even the One Day matches are long) and I soon got caught up in the spectacle of India’s historic run to become the World Cup champions.  That experience got me thinking about India’s run in energy and cleantech.  So I did a little digging and here is what I found.

Insight of the Week: Hot Facts About Lighting

Whitney Michael

LED-chip-makers Bridgelux just scored a $21 Million round of funding this week.  Last week, President Obama’s State of the Union address made much mention of energy efficiency initiatives.  It’s clear that the spotlight is on lighting, but did you know…

Lighting Facts

We have conducted extensive analysis into the lighting market and have mapped the competitive vendor landscape and the value chain.

Keep a look out for upcoming reports on the lighting market, subsectors and profiles of the companies involved and learn more about becoming a subscriber.

Source:  Cleantech Group Research

This Insight of the Week was originally featured in the free Inside Cleantech weekly newsletter.  Subscribe here.

Levelized cost: What power plants and lighting have in common

Josh Gould

We at Cleantech Group have a keen interest in lighting, as our readers have likely noticed from our research work (clients only) and blogging.  This interest is motivated, in part, by our client and subscriber base who tend to be interested in some combination of the following:

  • How innovation is changing the industry
  • Who are the startups/investors/large existing lighting companies able to capitalize on these innovations
  • How to conceptualize or segment the industry in a way that helps to make better sense of future innovations or companies

We will address these issues in more detail in a forthcoming research brief on lighting.  But one “quick and dirty” approach that has helped our clients better understand the industry is to think of lights as an asset with a lifetime cost.  The industry uses levelized cost of energy (LCOE) to make decisions about the present value of the total cost to build and operate a power plant over its economic life.  Similarly, lights are also an asset that necessitates variable costs to build, operate, and dispose.

Indeed, the idea of lifetime cost is a key driver of innovation in lighting.  Incandescents – the least efficient and oldest type of electric lights …