[Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA]
Financing the Path to a Clean Energy Future
Over 400 entrepreneurs, clean energy investors, and government officials converged four blocks from Philadelphia’s City Hall October 24-26, 2006, for the largest US clean energy venture forum. The U.S. Department of Energy‘s NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) Industry Growth Forum seeks to commercialize emerging clean energy technologies by bringing early stage clean energy companies together with venture capitalists and investors.
While 106 clean energy companies applied to present their business plans to the 19th NREL Industry Growth Forum, 33 emerging clean energy companies were selected to pitch their business plans to a rotating panel of clean energy venture capitalists and investors. The panelists asked questions about the company presentations and provided immediate feedback and guidance to the companies. Networking receptions, luncheons, and breaks provided opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors to discuss their company business plans, technology, and funding requirements one on one.
Though unscientific, a few trends are clear in the technologies presented this year. Biomass, biofuel, solar thermal, and solar concentrator companies are “hot”, but the number of hydrogen companies has declined.
Plextronics, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, won the 2006 Clean Energy Entrepreneur of the Year Award ($15,000 cash and services). Plextronics is developing semi-conductive and conductive polymers and inks for polymer solar cells and solid state polymer-based white lighting applications.
Two companies tied for the first 2006 Outstanding Presentation Award ($3,000 cash and services): Ze-gen, Inc. and Las Alamos Renewable Energy, LLC. Ze-gen is developing and integrating waste gasification technology to convert construction and demolition waste and municipal solid waste into near zero-emissions synthetic natural gas and electricity. Los Alamos Renewable Energy is commercializing patented Solar Reduction of Carbon Dioxide (SOLAREC™) technology to simultaneously produce fuel and electricity from solar energy.
Another local favorite, Franklin Fuel Cells, Inc., based in Malvern, Pennsylvania, claimed the second 2006 Outstanding Presentation Award. Franklin Fuel Cells is developing low cost solid oxide fuel cell technology that operates directly on today’s hydrocarbon fossil fuels and future fuels including biofuels and hydrogen.
Pennsylvania’s strong performance in the business case competition is a direct result of small business grant, investment, and loan programs spearheaded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Office of Energy and Technology Deployment. The progressive Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard in Pennsylvania requiring 18 percent of all energy be generated from clean, advanced energy sources by 2020 further reinforces the state’s commitment to small clean energy businesses.
On Wednesday, the National Alliance of Clean Energy Business Incubators (NACEBI) expanded NREL’s Business Assistance Model to become the Clean Energy Alliance, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to developing clean energy businesses.
This year’s Forum was hosted by NREL, the Clean Energy Alliance, the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development, and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
The 20th NREL Industry Growth Forum will be held next Fall 2007 in Denver, Colorado.
A strong Swedish delegation from government and business was among the few international participants. Fredrik Selander with the Swedish Energy Agency said the Swedes were benchmarking their government funded research and grant programs versus the NREL programs to improve the commercialization of clean energy technologies in Sweden.