A Revival in Energy Management?

“We’re in a financing nuclear winter for cleantech,” he said. “We’re really just starting to come out of the trough of disillusionment.” Tendril CEO, Adrian Tuck, quoted in Greentech Media Great to see a couple of signs of life in the energy management space, one which plenty had written off as moribund for lack of…


Opower Takes on Big Data for Home Energy

“We had a huge, huge push on the back end — we basically rewrote our code base, to be able to scale with the AMI data from across tens of millions of homes,” Ogi Kavazovic, Opower’s VP of marketing and strategy We’re finally starting to see the move of SmartGrid providers into the Big Data…


Siemens in talks to sell solar business

“Due to the changed framework conditions, lower growth and strong price pressure in the solar markets, the company’s expectations for its solar energy activities have not been met” Siemens representative Interesting, if not surprising, to see Siemens disposing of its loss-making solar business to concentrate on its more lucrative wind business.  Most commentators expect at…


What Price of Crude Oil Makes Ethanol Production Profitable?

The analysis also highlights the difficulty of sustaining the current price of corn, around $8, without crude oil prices above $100. Farm Doc Daily argues that we’re in a new era for corn prices, as higher oil prices justify corn ones above $4/bushel in order to provide a clearing price for ethanol production.  This is…


Desalination no panacea for California water woes

“We found that our demand for water had dropped so much since the time we started exploring desalination, we didn’t need the water”

Libby Pischel, Marin Municipal Water District

Plans for 17 planned Californian desalination plants are being stymied by a conservation and recession-induced demand falls, capital costs and regulatory delays.  Full Article Here

Solar Means Business; Top 20 Commercial Users

[one_half]  [testimonial]Many of the best-managed companies in America are among the top users of solar, and that’s no coincidence.[/testimonial] [/one_half] [one_half_last] A report from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) lists the top commercial users of solar as Walmart, Costco, Kohls, IKEA and Macy’s.  Between them, they’ve installed 1.2 million PV panels, including in the kind of Northern states…


EOG Resources: ‘Not At All Sanguine’ About Natural Gas, NGL Markets

[one_half]  [testimonial]Don’t expect the philosophy to change there unless we have the coldest winter in the history, or something that changes the structural configuration of North American gas.[/testimonial] [/one_half] [one_half_last] With natural gas prices bumping along at multi-year lows, guessing on the likelihood of recovery has become quite the sport.  At a recent conference, oil & gas…


Water Desalinization Spreads to $17 Billion Market

A new report forecasts a tripling of the desalinization equipment market over the next five years, driven in part the lower equipment costs that new market entrants are bringing with them. Full article here According to the report “investment in installations that make drinking water from the sea will jump to a record in 2016…


Why Your EV Is Cheaper Than Your Gas Car

Last week, I got a neat update on the state of the electric vehicle (EV) market from a  guy who’s staked his career on the industry: Travis Johnson of NV Energy ditched the certainty of a mainline utility gig to head up the company’s transportation program a couple of years’ ago.  He’s quite the guru…


Clean Energy for the ‘Base of the Pyramid’

When you’re commercializing a clean energy technology, the received wisdom is that you start by finding the largest viable market segment, the one that has both the need for your product and the ability to pay for it.  It’s a tried and true method that’s been followed by the biofuels, solar and electric vehicle industries…


5 Cool Real Assets Trends for 2012

Shamefully, it’s taken me an entire month to wade through 2012 predictions from assorted economists and commentators.  The consensus calls are much as one would expect; neither oil prices nor the US economy are going anywhere fast, nothing substantive will be achieved on federal policy in the teeth of a tough election year, investors aren’t…


What next for electric vehicles?

One of the downsides of working with emerging technologies is that you never quite know how they’re going to fare until they hit the marketplace.  There’s no good rule of thumb to estimate people’s reaction to something they haven’t even considered before. A good example is electric vehicles (EV), a vehicle that is charged from…


Real Assets Junkie Goes Social!

In these straitened times, it’s always exciting to be able to announce a little growth, and Real Assets Junkie is fortunate to be expanding to two great blogs: –Seedstock.  The folks at Seedstock provide a unique platform for sustainable agriculture bloggers; their 20 contributors profile start ups, farms, urban agriculture and university research projects.  They’re…


Can Local Stock Exchanges Overcome the Valley of Death?

Whenever you see a venture capital or investment banking presentation on the development of a company, it starts with two guys working on their smart idea in a garage, progresses to funding from angel, venture capital, private equity groups before reaching the utopia of listing on a public stock exchange, preferably either the NYSE or…


A Thousand Ugly Thermostats

When the first generation of green building products were introduced, developers thought that business owners would rip out outmoded thermostats and meters and replace them with the new ones that not only saved energy but allowed users to see everything from the time that they turned on the lights to the weather.  It turned out…


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What Happens to Formerly Hip Cleantech Cos?

At a time when we’re seeing a shakeout in the first wave of solar companies, it seemed appropriate to take a look at what happens to the formerly-hip in renewable energy.  Which sectors are no longer feeling the love? Each year, the Cleantech Group, an independent research company, conducts a survey to elect a Cleantech…


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Why the FT is wrong on commodity markets

The Financial Times’ flagship Lex column this morning picked up the theme of “financialization” (the notion that the financial part of the economy has overcome the ‘real’ part to the latter’s detriment) that has become a steady drumbeat in the left wing British press.  The full article is here.  In essence, it argues that the…


Which Technologies are Utilities Seeking?

Few things get most venture capitalists (VC) to snap closed a pitch book faster than announcing that you intend to court utilities as your customers; “you’ll burn through my cash long before you figure out their tiresome slothful bureaucracies” is a typical response.  The impression has been reinforced by occasional spats between regulators and demand…


Clausius Technologies' Founders

Which Cleantech Teams Do VCs Back?

The era of green investing was supposed to be a different one for venture capital (VC).  After the excesses of the internet boom, many VCs said that they planned to invest more carefully, with a less blinkered approach.  Now that most VCs have 5 or 6 years of green investments under their belts and there…


Image Courtesy of FYSE

Venturing into the World of Business Plan Competitions

As an entrepreneur in residence (EIR) at NIREC, I am regularly asked about the availability of venture capital funding, even by companies that are at a very early stage in their development.  While venture capital is a good fit for many companies, it is not a panacea for all, nor is it widely available; fewer…


Safety Info at China Factory

Is Onshoring the Next Big Cleantech Startup Trend?

This morning, I got to participate in a breakfast for the semi finalists of the Cleantech Open, the country’s largest and most prestigious cleantech business plan competition.  One of the startups that I’ve been working with – Clausius Technologies – is in the running this year. As ever, the best part of the event was…


The Curious Rise of Real Asset ETFs

Five years ago, it was a pain in the neck to put together a real assets portfolio from public equities because there were so few easy proxies to use. All of the interesting ETFs seemed to be listed in Europe, thanks in part to the work of innovators such as ETF Securities. In my first…



How the World’s Changed for Renewables StartUps

Earlier this week, I spoke about how the world has changed for startups at a greentech conference.  The organizers wanted a “before and after” of the environment for renewables startups, which is tricky given that so much depends on whether the idea that you’ve spent years germinating is in an industry area that’s currently hip,…


Why is Cleantech Failing in Washington?

While all eyes have been on politicians’ peccadilloes this week, cleantech folks have been anxiously watching another Washington drama.  The government loans and guarantees that have sustained solar, electric vehicle and biofuel companies through the “Valley of Death” are likely to be either dramatically culled or scrapped altogether.  Cleantech startups have a substantial disadvantage over…


Do Consumers Want SmartMeters?

At a private lunch last week, one venture capitalist bemoaned his inability to find decent investment options in the energy efficiency space.  He saw numerous Home Energy Network ideas, but was struggling to figure out which business models made sense.  The grand vision for the Home Energy Network has always been that it would integrate…


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What Comes Next For Biofuels?

Algae-based fuel producer Solazyme just upped its target for next week’s IPO, so this morning’s SD Forum breakfast on the coming generation of biofuels was buzzing.   With Kior (which says it can produce synthetic petroleum from plants) recently filing a K1, biofuels are one of the bigger hopes for much-needed IPO exits. Briefly, 1st generation…


Image Courtesy of Enjoy Going Green

Is Solar Crowding Out Geothermal?

A couple of weeks’ ago, a cowboy (yes, a real one, he has 300 head of cattle) was telling me about his energy quandary.  He intends to pass the ranch down to his kids, as his parents did to him, and so, is worried about his increasingly high propane bills.  Propane prices are up nearly…


US Geological Survey Map

What’s Geothermal?

As one of my roles is in the industry, I’m regularly asked to explain geothermal energy.  Geothermal energy is simply heat from the earth.  By definition, as you drill further into the earth, you find heat, which in turn can be captured as an abundant and renewable power source.  You can read a good deal…


Image Courtesy of Financial Times

Where Did All The Engineers Go?

At a time of 9%+ unemployment, it seems kooky that so many of the real assets sectors are short staffed.  As baby boomers prepare for retirement, there just aren’t that many skilled workers coming up through the ranks.  All oil executives said that a lack of skilled personnel was their biggest issue, in a 2009…


Market in Xinjiang Province, China

Hunting for Oil in China’s Taklamakan Desert

Whenever I hear people talk about the world being flat and small and interconnected, I think of the Taklamakan Desert, a place so remote that it sometimes seems medieval. China’s rising thirst for oil has long caused consternation in the geeky circles of the oil industry, as most recognized some time ago that the growing…


Deutsche Says $4 Gas Won’t Tank The Economy

Four Dollar A Gallon Gas Is Coming But It Won’t Necessarily Tank The US Economy. One of the downsides of being an analyst is that you’re expected to focus on a really narrow research area, which might explain why the smart folks at Deustche Bank – in a recent report – don’t see higher gas…


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Glencore’s IPO; A Drop in the Bucket

The storied Swiss commodities trader Glencore launched its long anticipated IPO this week.  The company trades in metals, energy and agricultural commodities, and owns mines, farmland and energy assets.  It is the latter that have driven the need to IPO, as the company seeks to acquire further mines in particular. Media coverage has focused on…


Coal Goes Reality

It’s good to see reality TV using its popularity to do good for once.  SpikeTV’s new series – Coal – is trailing West Virginia miners as they work a coal mine owned by a small Toronto listed company, Cobalt Coal.  It’s a refreshing change from ghastly perma-tanned illiterates and loons with scores of children, even…


Biosphere 2

The Ruins of a Grand Experiment

Scientists have a certain way of doing things. You start with a hypothesis, test it on a miniature scale and then expand gradually from there. Biosphere 2 ignored all of this and – after a couple of preliminary tests – built a huge mini-world complex 35 miles north east of Tucson in the Arizona desert…


Burn Design Labs

A Hot Idea

Whenever you see ridiculously high rates quoted for green energy usage, it’s normally because the use of biomass (wood, farm waste) in the developing world has been rolled into the figures.  Generally, this makes a nonsense of the statistics because – in this context – biomass is being used in anything but a green way. …