Waste on Energy or Spend Wisely?
SEATTLE -- New and renewable ways of producing electricity are ready to deploy now, but the companies creating them often are not. That was the message delivered to investors and analysts meeting with green power entrepreneurs here Thursday night.
\"The idea\'s never enough,\" said Kristen Martinez, of Sound Point Ventures, which is investing in energy companies through Angels with Attitude.
\"Many people in this industry are coming from engineering, and they don\'t know how to put the rest of the package together,\" she said. \"You have to make the jump from being an engineering-led company, which many of these companies are, into a business.\"
Timing is always important.
\"The real challenge, when you\'re a VC, is to figure out whether this is really to the ripe point, or is it just another peak on the cycle,\" said Peggy Sue Heath, an analyst.
Heath, a vice president with Ziff-Davis Ziff-Davis Market Experts, watches emerging technology from the investor\'s viewpoint. \"I think the really critical issue that hasn\'t been resolved with any of the technologies -- with the exception of solar, which is beginning to see some movement -- is really how adoption is going to play out.\"
Heath predicts that it will take at least two more years before the situation is right to attract the majority of venture capital funds.
\"There\'s still too much risk inherent in most of these technologies,\" Heath said. \"Most VCs are not going to touch this for a while. But she adds \"we\'ve oversubscribed nearly every other area and money has to go somewhere.\"
Tom Starrs, of Kelso Starrs & Associates, told the audience that the emerging energy companies need to recruit marketing people to help connect with consumers, as well as regulatory lawyers who know their way around the arcane jumble of state and federal regulations governing the electric utility industry in the U.S. today.
\"You can produce the best widgit in the world, and if you\'re trying to connect it into a utility network, then you have a big battle ahead of you,\" Starrs said.
Martinez says that from the investor\'s point of view, there are both near-term and longer term opportunities for what alternative energy watchers are hoping will turn out to eventually be the next big thing. \"Wind and solar companies are profitable today,\" she said. \"Microturbines and fuel cells are predicted to be profitable within the next five to 10 years.\"
She cited a poll in which 95 percent of consumers indicated a preference for solar and wind energy. Less well-known sources of alternative energy have much less consumer appeal, she said, though that is likely to change over time.
\"I typically recommend a time horizon of four to seven years, which is a bit longer than the typical technology investment, but not outside the realm of consideration for venture investors,\" she said.
\"The fastest growing energy technologies on Earth today are solar and wind,\" said Robert Harmon, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which is selling pollution credits and using the money to fund alternative energy and environmental projects.
\"Wind farms can be built in six months once all the permitting is done,\" he said. \"You can put solar PV on your house tomorrow. There are huge gains to be made (in) energy storage systems like flywheels and fuel cells that run backwards (to make hydrogen).\"
By Manny Frishberg
Zdroj: Wired News
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