2008 - Year of the ???

Cai Steger, our former summer business fellow extraordinaire, sent me an email recently positing a set of year and cleantech pairings. As he put it:

It certainly seems as though the last few years, one specific technology has captured the imagination of the media, the business community and the public.  There’s a love affair for about a year, followed by the inevitable falling out of love period, as various individuals question the economic, environmental and political realities underlying each technology.

Here are his pairings from 2004 through 2007:

2004 – year of  the hybrid gas-electric vehicle

2005 – year of wind

2006 – year of biofuels

2007 – year of solar

2004 was the year that the 2nd generation Prius was released with its 6 month waiting list and Hollywood love affairs. 2005 began the current period of record setting growth in the wind industry helped along by 3 years of uninterrupted availability of the production tax credit. 2006 was the year that so many ethanol plants were planned that the industry itself lost track and it took an outsider to figure out how fast the sector was expanding.

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For 2007, I think Cai meant solar power in general based on the growth in optimism over the sectors long-term prospects (see also this report on the Solar Power 2007, the annual industry conference), but I might argue that it was really the year of concentrating solar power because of the rash of projects planned (4GW in total).

So what about 2008? Cai speculates: "If I had money, I’d put it on carbon markets, or possibly energy efficiency.  My dark horse would be geothermal or waste-to-energy."

I think that geothermal is unlike, given the fierce competition the oil industry will represent for all drilling equipment and expertise, and waste-to-energy shouldn't be considered cleantech and besides, it's so early 80's. Carbon markets are interesting but don't qualify in my mind as a cleantech investment option.

I've speculated a little bit about the potential for a cleantech bubble burst, but being an optimist, I'm going to go with energy efficiency. The sector could have its crystallizing moment in the public and cleantech investors eyes if efforts to ban the incandescent bulb catch fire next year. 

Anyone else have a nomination?

About the Authors

Nathanael Greene

Director, Renewable Energy Policy, Energy & Transportation program

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