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Roundup: 2010 Predictions for Cleantech

3p Contributor | Friday January 1st, 2010 | 6 Comments

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


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  • garykahanak

    This is a pretty good list, and these are all generally necessary and good things, but if this is all we can look forward to in our bag of tricks, I would be quite depressed, because it is inadequate to address the urgency and scope of the world's problems. Fortunately, the following two items are key game-changers capable of turning around our dire situation (don't get me wrong, it will still be very difficult; but at least it will be possible).

    ADVANCED NUCLEAR POWER. 4th Generation nuclear, or Gen IV, the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) in particular, is a technology developed by our own smartest scientists and engineers from 1984-94 at Argonne National Laboratory. This is not the nuclear power your mother knew. The IFR was developed specifically to address the shortcomings of our current fleet of Gen II Light Water Reactors (LWR): namely, nuclear waste disposal issue; tie-in to nuclear weapons fuel cycle; high cost of construction; efficiency–uses only 1% of uranium in the enriched fuel (at this rate, only several decades worth of uranium left); safety, which has been excellent, should still be improved. The program was spectacularly successful. The IFR utilizes our stockpile of nuclear waste and decommissioned weapons as its fuel; efficiency of fuel use is near 100%; no mining or enrichment required. IFR-formulated fuel is useless for weapons use. IFRs are designed to be small, modular, efficiently mass-produced in factories, shipped complete by rail or freighter, and easily retrofitted to existing coal-burning power plants. IFRs are inherently, passively safe, being cooled by convection of liquid sodium, no moving parts to fail. Two years before final proving, the program was terminated, and a hush order was placed on program participants by Dept. of Energy. General Electric has a design for an IFR on the shelf, ready to build. This is the only currently available option capable of replacing coal for baseload power AT SCALE in the short time frame dictated by the findings of climate science. See NASA climatologist James Hansen's website for detailed information at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/ . For technical information on the Integral Fast Reactor, see the Science Council for Global Initiatives, http://www.thesciencecouncil.com

    CARBON FEE AND REBATE vs. CAP AND TRADE. The results of the Copenhagen summit have been disappointing. Cap and Trade is increasingly coming into question as an effective and viable approach to reducing carbon emissions. Fee and Rebate, or Carbon Tax and 100% Dividend, is a revenue-neutral approach that assesses a fee on all carbon-based fuels at the mine, wellhead or port of entry, and distributes these funds back to the general population in equal amounts on a per capita basis. The idea is to gradually increase the carbon fee over time, so that eventually non-carbon energy sources are cheaper than carbon fuels. Distribution of fees directly back to consumers softens the impact of transition, encourages early adoption and market innovation, and greatly reduces price volatililty of energy. Fee and Rebate has been successfully implemented in British Colombia, with surprisingly strong public and bipartisan support. For an excellent coverage of this topic, see http://www.carbontax.org and http://www.carbonfees.org

    • http://www.mrcleantech.com/ William Brent

      Thanks Gary. I agree that nuclear is key and was surprised not to see it mentioned by any of the lists I included in the roundup.

  • http://www.mrcleantech.com/ William Brent

    Here's one more list that just came out from Biofuels Digest – http://www.biofuelsdigest.com/blog2/2010/01/01/

    If you have others, please let me know or add them here.

  • http://www.pacebutler.com/ John at Cellphone Recycling

    I just hope that all this predictions will push through and of course our 2010 will be greener, Im crossing my finger to that but I am being positive to have a good start for 2010.

    Happy New Year.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com GlobalPatriot

    The beauty of this list lies in its diversity, which is to say that we are moving forward on multiple fronts with the realization that there is no single silver bullet that will save the day, but rather dozens of silver pellets that collectively will turn the tide.

  • http://GlobalPatriot.com/ GlobalPatriot

    The beauty of this list lies in its diversity, which is to say that we are moving forward on multiple fronts with the realization that there is no single silver bullet that will save the day, but rather dozens of silver pellets that collectively will turn the tide.