CA Clean Fund Draws Entrepreneurs

By Published On: June 25, 2007

A “New Economy of New Energy” conference hosted by Pacific Gas & Electric, under a $30 million fund set up from its bankruptcy settlement, called for government to put more money behind the clean energy movement to help reduce investment risk (Circuit, Oct. 22, 2004). Not all speakers at the June 18 meeting at the utility’s San Francisco headquarters agreed, however. As venture capital firms keep California’s economic engine running on clean tech, rapid innovation is occurring from algae to fuel cells. Funding the burgeoning new energy sector has tripled over the past four years. Money is pouring into entrepreneurial clean energy start-ups, while California’s investor-owned utilities are cooperating. While this is a positive sign for many, skeptics are convinced that too many companies rushing into the market may cause economic danger because there may not be a market to support them. Another problem venture capitalists emphasized at the conference was that there has been little funding for technologies that offer realistic climate solutions. For example, the most optimistic majority of investments have been in photovoltaics. Most speakers agreed that academic research in the industry should be funded. All in all, the CalFed conference concluded that there is an urgent need for short-term, cost-effective, low-tech investments. There is also a need for policy to help with the high risk of funding clean tech business plans. —Alison Loomis

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