Bill Gates Calls for an ‘Energy Miracle’

Bill Gates at TED

Bill Gates at TED

Bill is right about solving the energy+emissions problem. Read this CNN article.

Long Beach, California (CNN) — Microsoft Corp. founder and philanthropist Bill Gates on Friday called on the world’s tech community to find a way to turn spent nuclear fuel into cheap, clean energy.

“What we’re going to have to do at a global scale is create a new system,” Gates said in a speech at the TED Conference in Long Beach, California. “So we need energy miracles.”

Gates called climate change the world’s most vexing problem, and added that finding a cheap and clean energy source is more important than creating new vaccines and improving farming techniques, causes into which he has invested billion of dollars.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation last month pledged $10 billion to help deploy and develop vaccines for children in the developing world.

The world must eliminate all of its carbon emissions and cut energy costs in half in order to prevent a climate catastrophe, which will hit the world’s poor hardest, he said.

“We have to drive full speed and get a miracle in a pretty tight timeline,” he said.

Gates said the deadline for the world to cut all of its carbon emissions is 2050. He suggested that researchers spend the next 20 years inventing and perfecting clean-energy technologies, and then the next 20 years implementing them.

The world’s energy portfolio should not include coal or natural gas, he said, and must include carbon capture and storage technology as well as nuclear, wind and both solar photovoltaics and solar thermal power.

“We’re going to have to work on each of these five [areas] and we can’t give up on any of them because they look daunting,” he said. “They all have significant challenges.”

Gates spent a significant portion of his speech highlighting nuclear technology that would turn spent uranium — the 99 percent of uranium rods that aren’t burned in current nuclear power plants — into electricity.

That technology could power the world indefinitely; spent uranium supplies in the U.S. alone could power the country for 100 years, he said.

A “traveling wave reactor” would burn uranium waste slowly, meaning a 60-year supply could be added to a reactor at once and then not touched for decades, he said.

Gates also called for innovation in battery technology.

“All the batteries we make now could store less than 10 minutes of all the energy [in the world],” he said. “So, in fact, we need a big breakthrough here. Something that’s going to be of a factor of 100 better than what we have now.”

Gates called for more investment in climate-related technology. He said he is backing a company called TerraPower, which is working on an alternate form of nuclear technology that uses spent fuel.

Money that goes into research and development will pay bigger returns than other investments, he said, especially if money goes into energy sources that will be cheap enough for the developing world to afford.

Clean energy technologies must be installed in poorer countries as they develop, he said.

“You’d be stunned at the ridiculously low costs of innovation,” said Gates, who received a standing ovation for his remarks.

If he could wish for anything in the world, Gates said he would not pick the next 50 years’ worth of presidents or wish for a miracle vaccine.

He would choose energy that is half as expensive as coal and doesn’t warm the planet.

Continue Reading

Smart Grid Can Decrease Energy Use 12% by 2030 Says PNNL Report

PNNL LogoRICHLAND, Wash. – A smart electrical power grid could decrease annual electric energy use and utility sector carbon emissions at least 12 percent by 2030, according to a new report from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The report, The Smart Grid: An Estimation of the Energy and CO2 Benefits, shows a direct link between the smart grid and carbon emissions. It evaluates how different functions of the smart grid could provide substantial reduction in energy use and carbon emissions – both directly by using new technology and indirectly by making renewable energy and efficiency programs more affordable and potentially larger.

That means by fully utilizing a smart grid, the nation could prevent the equivalent of 442 million metric tons, or 66 typical coal power plants’ worth, of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere each year. Those 66 power plants produce the equivalent amount of electricity needed to power 70 million of today’s homes.

“By making the grid smart, we make it more efficient and more accommodating of renewables, and we’re able to cut down on the amount of carbon we emit to generate the electricity we need,” said Rob Pratt, PNNL research scientist. “This report suggests that we could substantially reduce emissions by deploying a smart grid.”

“We wanted to show the additional benefits inherent in the smart grid’s potential contribution to the nation’s goal of mitigating climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of the electric power system,” he said.

Until recently, the fields of emissions research and smart grid research have been largely separate, even while both strive to secure the nation’s energy future. The report joins a growing body of literature that allows researchers, analysts, investors and policymakers to make a definitive link between the two areas of study – and defines the linkage as a legitimate area for further research and technology development by government. It also informs the business case for smart grid investments by utilities and others.

“This report has significant implications for public and private sector interests engaging in future research, financial and policy decisions in this area,” said Mike Davis, PNNL associate laboratory director for Energy and Environment. “Reducing our dependence on foreign oil and reducing our carbon footprint can go hand-in-hand and be profitable.”

Mechanisms considered

Pratt led a team of eight authors on the report. They analyzed nine different ways, or mechanisms, by which the smart grid could reduce carbon emissions. They also outlined recommendations for future and additional research in each of these areas to fulfill the Administration’s goal of substantial reductions by the year 2030. The DOE Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s Smart Grid R&D Program funded the study.

Learn about the direct and indirect impacts of a smart grid.

Direct mechanisms reduce electricity and CO2 emissions when smart grid functions are implemented. Direct mechanisms include incorporating smart grid-enabled diagnostics in residential and commercial buildings; adding more plug-in hybrid electric vehicles to the market; and benefiting from the conservation effect of consumers being more aware about their own energy use – a mechanism that is made possible by a smarter grid.

Indirect mechanisms are realized when smart grid capabilities are used to reduce the costs of deploying and operating efficiency and renewables. These cost savings can be turned into carbon savings by reinvesting in carbon reductions down the road. Using demand response and energy storage devices to bring renewable energy on the grid is one indirect mechanism that can reduce the need to build additional power plants to handle the increased reserve power renewables require.

“The importance of the direct and indirect reduction mechanisms is in their combined effect on reducing carbon emissions,” said Pratt. “Some mechanisms proved insignificant, and the larger ones each appear capable of providing about a 3 percent reduction. In combination, they could reduce the electric grid’s carbon footprint by a very substantial 12 percent or more.”

“This is very significant in light of future renewable portfolio goals of 20 to 30 percent set for the electricity sector in many states for the 2030 time frame, with even higher subsequent goals being contemplated as part of a national carbon policy,” he said.

Full deployment

The estimates assume full deployment of a smart grid or virtually 100 percent penetration of smart grid technologies. They can be scaled down in proportion to actual smart grid penetrations to estimate the potential reductions at any given level of deployment over time.

A smart grid incorporates multiple technologies into the existing electricity delivery system and enables more visibility and control of both the existing electricity infrastructure and new “smart” components, such as smart meters, automated demand response, plug-in electric vehicles and electricity storage devices. The smart grid’s much broader cost and operational benefits are provided through high-speed, two-way communication, sensing and real-time coordination of assets all the way down to the customer meter and other end use devices, such as smart appliances and thermostats.

A basic perspective of PNNL’s analysis is that, during the next 20 years, smart grid technology will become pervasive in the U.S. because of the cost efficiencies and reliability improvements it provides for the electric power system. Clearly, once purchased, this same infrastructure can be leveraged to provide the additional benefits identified in this report with little, if any, marginal cost.

PNNL’s recommendations include further analysis of some technical aspects of the mechanisms, further study of behavior-related mechanisms such as the impact of consumer information, and better accounting for the range of uncertainty for the reductions estimates, as more definitive analyses are conducted and better methods are tailored to estimate each mechanism’s potential.

PNNL’s report also analyzes a variety of existing research including related assessments by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and The Climate Group.

Continue Reading

A123 and Fisker Sign Battery Deal

Published on 14 January 2010 by in Blog, Clean Tech, News

A123 and Fisker Sign Battery Deal

A123logoJanuary 14, 2010 – Fisker Automotive has entered a battery supply agreement with A123 Systems. The Massachusetts-based company will provide lithium-ion batteries for the Karma plug-in hybrid. Chief Executive Officer Henrik Fisker said, “Fisker Automotive selected A123 because of the company’s ability to meet our performance needs and rapidly scale to our production volume. Fisker is committed to developing environmentally friendly cars that don’t sacrifice style or performance. A123’s technology will ensure the Karma delivers.” In electric-only “Stealth” mode, the Karma — using only A123’s batteries — will have a 50-mile (80km) range, seven-second 0-60 (0-100km/h) time and 95mph (153 km/h) top speed. In hybrid “Sport” mode, the Karma will reach 60 (100km/h) in about 6 seconds, 125mph (201km/h), can achieve 100mpg (2.4L/100km) and has a total range of 300 miles (483km

Continue Reading

EnerNOC Buys Cogent Energy for Energy Efficiency Application

EnerNOC LogoEnerNOC, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENOC), a leading provider of clean and intelligent energy solutions, today announced that it has acquired Monitoring-Based Commissioning (MBCx) firm Cogent Energy, Inc. By integrating Cogent Energy’s extensive commissioning and engineering experience into EnerNOC’s MBCx energy efficiency application, EnerNOC will be able to deliver even more value to its rapidly growing customer base.

“We’re excited to combine forces with EnerNOC, helping to enhance the functionality of EnerNOC’s MBCx energy efficiency application and to introduce EnerNOC’s leading product suite to our existing customer base,” said Tom Riley, Co-founder of Cogent Energy, who along with his team, has joined the energy efficiency business unit at EnerNOC.

Cogent Energy’s solutions enable EnerNOC to service smaller facilities with less sophisticated controls systems, which significantly increases the size of the addressable market for EnerNOC’s MBCx energy efficiency application. EnerNOC plans to build on Cogent Energy’s present and past work with more than 200 customers nationwide, including California State University, University of California, the City and County of San Francisco, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the State of California. Cogent Energy’s experienced engineers will leverage their deep energy expertise to enhance the proprietary analytic filters within EnerNOC’s MBCx application that process energy data captured from building management systems and automatically identify, quantify, and track energy savings opportunities.

“The market for MBCx represents a huge growth opportunity for EnerNOC. We’ve already experienced early successes with our in-house built application and established ourselves as a leader in the rapidly evolving MBCx industry,” said Tim Healy, Chairman and CEO of EnerNOC. “Combining Cogent Energy’s expertise with the automated power of MBCx will enable EnerNOC to deliver one of the most powerful energy efficiency offerings in the world.”

“Assisting our clients in their pursuit of operating efficient facilities while helping to promote a sustainable environment is our number one priority,” said Tom Arnold, Vice President of Energy Efficiency and Carbon Management Solutions at EnerNOC. “Cogent Energy has worked with universities, local governments, commercial properties, utilities, and dozens of other industries to extract significant value from energy efficiency investments.”

Continue Reading

U.S. May Wind Up Green with Envy – CNBC article

wind_turbines1_200Here’s an excerpt of an article from CNBC which gives an idea why without clear, long term energy policy in the U.S., we may fall behind in the global clean tech industry. (Link follows excerpt)

Mark Koba, Senior Editor | 15 Nov 2009 | 06:20 PM ET
Green is not turning into American red, white and blue.

Despite recent advances, the U.S lags far behind other major countries when it comes to clean energy investment and experts say it may never lead, let alone compete on equal terms.

And that’s after some $836 million in green technology deals in 2009—the most ever, according to Greentech Media, and another $8 billion in renewable energy loans budgeted under the Obama administration’s stimulus package.

“We stand to fall farther and farther behind other countries like China and India unless there are fundamental shifts,” says Susan MacCormac, chair of the venture capital and cleantech practices at international tech law firm Morrison & Foerster. “The U.S. should catch up, but odds are low that it will.”

A recent report from Deutsche Bank ranks the U.S. and Canada as two of the worst countries for investing in renewable energy, with Germany, France and China listed as among the best. The report cites a lack of long term and transparent energy polices in the U.S. that would translate into any kind of certainty for investments.

“I think there’s been no long-term vision that’s been executed,” says William Brent, SVP of cleantech practice at Weber Shandwick, an international marketing and communications firm. “The Bush administration pretty much left it (green technology) on the table and Obama’s made some improvements, but there’s no political leadership that you’re seeing in other markets.”

Washington needs to commit to both policy goals and funding levels, says Dr. Fred Murphy of Temple University.


Continue Reading

China Aims Strategically at Clean Tech Industry-a VC’s View

With all the talk about the importance of clean tech in addressing economic, employment, security, and climate issues, what are the actions taking place for the U.S.to be a global leader in the rapidly unfolding opportunity? This quote from Patrick Tam, General Partner at Tsing Capital in Beijing, is quite telling in that the U.S. is not necessarily the annointed one unless we move faster than we are:

According to a Time.com report, “Tam…says the government is aggressively helping seed the development of new green-tech industries. An example: 13 of China’s biggest cities will have all-electric bus fleets within five years. ‘China is eventually going to dominate the industry for electric vehicles,’ Tam says, ‘in part because the central government has both the vision and the financial wherewithal to make that happen.’ Tam, a graduate of MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, says he does deals in Beijing rather than Silicon Valley these days ‘because I believe this is where these new industries will really take shape. China’s got the energy, the drive and the market to do it.’ Isn’t that the sort of thing venture capitalists used to say about the U.S.?”

Quite provoking wake up call for more action…

Read more: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1938671-2,00.html#ixzz0WxAbWqRK

Continue Reading

Clean Tech Takes A Lot More Capital

Article form the Puget Sound Business Journal by Byron McCann and John Pierce on 11/09/09.

There’s no doubt that the global meltdown has fundamentally altered the prospects for current and long-term economic growth in our region.

Although the region was already somewhat of an outpost for large multinational corporations, the recession has further shrunk the ranks of corporate giants here in the Pacific Northwest. Those that remain face intense pressure just to maintain market share, much less increase it dramatically. Prospects for the meteoric growth we saw in the ’90s are gone.

Luckily, our region (including Oregon and Idaho) is blessed with a new cadre of entrepreneurs, startups and innovative mature businesses that are poised to jump-start an economic rebound that we believe will allow us to create jobs, increase state revenue and pull us out of the trough we’re in.

This industry we’re talking about is clean technology. It’s composed of people and companies developing and commercializing new, renewable, sustainable and “clean” approaches to fuels, electricity, energy efficiency and materials.

While both of us have spent decades investing in and helping launch startup technology companies, we’ve noticed some key differences between the needs of early-stage software and hardware companies and today’s emerging clean technology companies.

While it is certainly a challenge to launch any new venture, the barriers to starting a software or Web 2.0 company today are far lower than they were 10 or even five years ago. The access to open-source code, the wide availability of API’s (application programming interfaces) and the adoption of platform standards enable software and web entrepreneurs to create and deploy new products and services much more quickly and inexpensively than before.

In addition, promotion and distribution has never been easier. The ubiquity of the web allows customers to directly download applications to PCs, phones and other digital devices. The popularity of social media virtually erases the need for capital for advertising or promotional campaigns. We don’t mean to trivialize it, but it doesn’t take much to launch a web service these days.

Conversely, clean technology startups face more daunting and complex challenges — almost diametrically opposite those of their web peers.

First, the research and development needed to create new forms of energy is exponentially more costly and time consuming. Then, even if you can get an innovation to work in the lab, it’s extraordinarily complex to scale it to the level needed to perform at utility or commercial levels.

In addition, there are significant regulatory, safety and policy issues that must be addressed before certification. Finally, the capital costs of developing new industrial scale energy products are in the billions of dollars.

In short, creating a new form of renewable energy is much different than coding a downloadable app for an iPhone (although I’m sure we wish it could be that simple).

That’s why more than two dozen business leaders in the Pacific Northwest came together to launch the region’s first Clean Tech Open (CTO) competition. The CTO is far more than a typical business plan competition. Rather, it’s a community of nearly 100 volunteers from across the spectrum of venture capital, legal, science, environment, policy — you name it. These business leaders committed time and resources to help clean technology entrepreneurs create or evolve business models to support their clean technology idea, raise money, find strategic partnerships and launch a business.

On Oct. 29, the journey culminated in the first Pacific Northwest Clean Tech Open awards gala in Seattle, where three companies out of an initial pool of 56 were awarded nearly $50,000 in cash and in-kind services each. These three companies will go on to compete in the national competition.

Even those that were not named finalists emerged from the process with a refined business model, practice in presenting to funders, and a leg up on the competition for venture capital.

A vibrant clean technology industry in our region increases venture capital, job creation, income, tax base and GDP at a time when we need high growth in order to rise out of the recession. Traditional industry alone won’t be able to do it big enough or fast enough.

BYRON MCCANN is a founding partner at Ascent Partners Group, a Seattle-based investment bank advising technology entrepreneurs. He can be reached at 206.626.6340. JOHN PIERCE is a member in Seattle of the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm, where he is a leader of the firm’s energy and clean technology practice and can be reached at 206.883.2500. McCann and Pierce are co-chairs of the Pacific Northwest Clean Tech Open.

Continue Reading

Clean Tech Open Awards Gala – NW Region

Cleantech Open Logo
After six months of busy competition, the twelve clean tech semi-finalists will be highlighted at the Clean Tech Open Awards Gala on October 29th at the ACT Theatre. Governor Gregoire will keynote the event and Byron McCann, NW Region Clean Tech Open Co-chair, and Managing Partner of Ascent, will emcee.

Three finalists will be selected from the NW region who will then go to San Francisco on November 17th for the national Clean Tech Open Awards Gala.

“I am proud of the innovative and dedicated effort these clean tech entrepreneurs have given to the competition and know that they will form the basis of a vibrant clean tech economy for the NW and the US in the coming years,” said Byron McCann of Ascent.

Continue Reading

NW Energy Angels – New Website

Published on 28 October 2009 by in Clean Tech, News

NW Energy Angels – New Website

Check out the new website for the NW Energy Angels, a private group of accredited investors who are passionate about building a clean tech economy and helping entrepreneurs achieve success.

Continue Reading

Energy Summit Builds Momentum

Over 750 people attended the Washington Energy Summit on May 4, 2009, to focus on how we can collaborate to drive our sustainable energy future forward.  Rogers Weed, Director of the Washington State Department of Commerce (formerly known as CTED), presided over the meeting and introduced Governor Gregoire who provided a heightened sense of priority for WA state to develop this essential industry.

Of great interest were several breakout sessions including smart grid and project financing.  What is important is to follow and build upon the ongoing conversation.

Continue Reading