Based on the rash of predictions for cleantech in 2010 from investors, consultants and media (see the full list at the end of this post), I’ve pulled together a “trend of trends” list below that attempts to synthesis the broader, over-arching themes. As always, I’m amazed that water isn’t on the top of every list, every year, although there are some positive signs on that front. So here are the 12 things that filtered to the top:
- Energy efficiency will have a big year, with buildings and information and communications technology (ICT) front and center (nice to see the “wow” factor over technologies like solar being tempered by the realization that there are a lot of cheaper ways to meet immediate goals for reducing emissions)
- Private investment will revive (with one prediction for a record-breaking year), but fears persist that the pending end of stimulus dollars will cast a long shadow over the market
- Differentiation – i.e. marketing – will increase in importance as we move from a technology-heavy phase to a commercialization-focused phase (something I’ve called attention to in the past).
- Consolidation and industry shake-out will accelerate, as will increased involvement of major corporates. Many VC-backed firms need an exit (especially in smart grid, solar and biofuels), so expect a few IPOs, but mostly M&A or failure as scale becomes more important and winners and losers emerge. And as the market grows and the issues being addressed become more complex, big multinationals with vested interests will try to play a larger role
- Smarter transportation – especially electrified – continues to gain traction, while next generation liquid fuels (cellulosic in particular) takes baby steps
- It’s more than energy, stupid. Land, water, rare earth metals, etc., take more mind share as understanding grows that the issues we face go beyond energy and carbon
- Importance of carbon measurement and management will increase, but folks seem pretty skeptical over whether climate legislation/treaties get be enacted–and even if they do, whether they’ll be aggressive enough (some expect sector-specific carbon regulation – i.e. aviation and shipping – instead of economy-wide measures)
- Distributed solutions continue to erode the power of centralized systems (in energy generation, building, transportation, etc.)
- Some technologies expected to garner attention: Waste to energy, waste biomass, power storage, geothermal, aquaculture, ultracapacitors, desalinization, building materials, large-scale solar
- There is a lot of expectation around advancements and interest in upgrading the electric grid; although there was a warning to expect at least one major failure of a smart grid rollout (not to mention that people have been predicting an intelligent grid for many years)
- Standards gain a higher profile – whether building codes, water or carbon labeling, unified standards for the smart grid, etc, creating a clear marked playing field grows in importance, including communicating the rules to consumers as needed
- International competition to be the cleantech leader intensifies (again this is something I’ve written about in the past, so not really news in my opinion)
If you want to read for yourself, the various predictions I’ve pulled from are here: Energy stocks to watch from Seeking Alpha; Overall industry outlook from the Cleantech Group; Clean energy predictions from Deloitte; Two different VC perspectives, one from Lightspeed Venture Partners and the other from Rob Day at Black Coral; Five biggest hurdles from Earth2Tech; IT and corporate green from Greenmonk’s Tom Raftery; Green building trends from Earth2Tech; Top 10 promises from cleantech companies from Cleantech Group; Smart grid from Earth2Tech.
William Brent heads the Cleantech practice at Weber Shandwick, a leading international marketing communications and PR firm. Formerly a serial entrepreneur and news correspondent during a 15-year stint in China, he now works to promote technologies that will power a clean economy. He is also a founder of the Clean Economy Network, and can be found online at www.mrcleantech.com and on Twitter @mrcleantech