Feb. 5, 2009 SDF Clean And Green

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On February 5, 2009 in Menlo Park at Orrick SDForum held “Green & Clean Tech in the New Administration” exploring the players and technologies in the immediate future. The promise of reinvigorating the economy through strategic government investment is appealing.

Obama’s economic recovery plan centers on redefining industries with green technology to rebuild infrastructure. Innovation across hardware, software and networks can drive this recovery. First we must define realistic goals and determine what technology is appropriate to fund. The proposed federal funding will have long-term effects on state and local economies.

Gregory Heibel of Orrick moderated panelists ranging from an advisor to the Obama campaign, Rick DeGolia of Green Wireless Systems, to local and state governments like Nanci Klein of the City of San Jose and Dan Pellissier of California Environmental Protection Agency, to investors such as Josh Becker of New Cycle Capital as well as the press like Matt Nauman of the San Jose Mercury News.

Rick DeGolia worked on the Obama campaign’s energy and environmental goals. They intend to invest 150 billion dollars to generate 5 million new jobs in green technology. Within ten years they intend to essentially reduce the amount of oil we currently import to zero. They want one million hybrids on the road by 2015 that get an average150 mpg. They hope to generate ten percent of our electricity by 2012 from renewable resources. They want to implement a cap and trade program by 80 percent by 2050. Over the past thirty years, California led the country in energy efficiency. It uses fifty percent less of the energy on a per capita basis than the rest of America. These standards established by California over the last thirty years will now be applied across the country. The challenge is persuading a state like Ohio that generates one hundred percent of its electricity from coal to adopt a cap on carbon. They need help to update their infrastructure. He has managed to cut his electricity consumption in half. He also thinks there are great opportunities in water conservation.

Josh Becker sees a strong commitment from the Obama administration by the appointments of qualified technology experts. He sees 54 billion targeted for energy technology. We currently spend 8 billion on DOE energy policy. That amount may triple over the next two years, with energy policy rivaling the Apollo program. Weatherization saves energy and creates green collar jobs. Smart grid will get 4.5 billion dollars. Two billion is for battery technology. There is 400 million for geothermal. Solar and wind is dependent on tax credits. Fuel cells and nuclear will not get as much. He thinks in the short term that weatherization may stimulate the economy. A thirty percent rebate to purchase energy efficient appliances will help a great deal. Stay involved in the political process to drive the new policies and stimulate the economy.

Nanci Klein talked about how these policies affect the city of San Jose. In fifteen years they intend to create 25,000 green jobs, cut per capita energy use by fifty percent, and generate one hundred percent of their own electricity. Government policy creates the goals and market for companies to invest. They want to incubate startups and attract existing companies to San Jose like Tesla.

Matt Nauman wonders how these projects will be funded given the current crisis, but expects renewed interest after it is over. He worries that California will not benefit from national policies because it has already picked the low hanging fruit of conservation. As a long time observer of the auto industry, it may be difficult to retool Rust Belt industry overnight. It may take a generation of car buying to shift over to electric cars. He thinks that smart monitoring devices, smart grid technology or other green tech hold promise to stimulate Silicon Valley companies. He sees employees driving conservation at work. It can be simple as not buy another incandescent bulb.

Dan Pellissier says California is blessed with tremendous natural resources. The Mojave Desert gets more solar radiation than any other place in the country and it is near twenty million people who need electricity. There are potentially geothermal 5000 megawatts that we only are using 1500 of now. We have wind power that we are generating near Tracy and Edwards. Funding and building requires creating a regulatory environment so everyone knows the rules to play by and benefit. Costs will go up and people do not want to spend more money right now for a payback many years later. There are practical limits that must be solved before you make money. Bureau of Land Management currently has 150 clean energy projects but it will take two years to approve them. He is concerned that federal guidelines will not be as strict as California’s and may be de-positioned in competing with other states.

New policy means new opportunity. To change one thing is to change everything.
Here are some pictures from the event.

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Copyright 2009 DJ Cline All rights reserved.