RECORD NEW ENERGY INVESTMENT BODES WELL FOR OBAMA PLAN TO RETOOL
The same week that Detroit carmakers asked for a multibillion dollar bailout from Congress, a solar panel materials manufacturer based in Hemlock, Michigan, 80 miles from Detroit, announced a $3 billion plant expansion expected to create hundreds of jobs.
Similar expansions in New Energy industries around the U.S. substantiate the incoming administration’s big plans to use federal spending to simultaneously reverse the recession and build a New Energy economy.
Barack Obama: "Breaking our oil addiction . . . is going to take nothing less than the complete transformation of our economy…"
Detractors aplenty remember the clumsy Carter-era use of federal funds for coal-to-liquid fuels, the ongoing misguided spending on the corn ethanol scam and other bungled investments of taxpayer money. “Let the market decide,” they say.
Donald Boudreaux, economics department chairman, George Mason University: "The history of government picking winners in the U.S. is not that grand…People instinctively love the idea of green jobs. . . . But there is a lot of mass stupidity out there."
Well, if venture capital investment is any indication, the market is pretty unequivocal. It wants New Energy.
Venture capital investment in New Energy remained surprisingly strong in 2008’s last quarter, giving what economist Hazel Henderson calls the sustainability sector a remarkable year. The Q4 total VC investment of $2.5 billion+ in New Energy is less than the previous quarter but impressive in the context of a dramatic economy-wide downturn. And more market affirmation is expected.
Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst, Greentech Media: "We see investment numbers staying strong through 2009 as investors continue to nurture their current portfolio firms and look for new opportunities…"
Even without marketplace approval, it is important to remember that Old Energy has led the nation and the world to global climate change and dependence on delimited, diminishing resources obtained through conflict. New Energy offers relief of that entire burden. Its logic is undeniable and the market must inevitably follow.
But here’s what everybody really wants to know: Wesoff and other VCs say the areas where money will flow in 2009 will be smart grid technology, energy storage technology, and energy efficiency technology.
Estimates put the number of New Energy jobs at 1-to-4 million – and that’s BEFORE the stimulus package spending proposed by the new administration.
Phil Angelides, former California Treasurer/head, Apollo Alliance: "[New Energy/Energy Efficiency investment is] the best path to recovery and the best chance of creating jobs that can't be outsourced…"
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Not everything proposed as part of the New Energy economy is high tech. Efficiency measures include home and building weatherization.
Van Jones, founder, Green for All & author, The Green Collar Economy: "You can employ a lot of people very quickly with off-the-shelf technology like caulk guns…This isn't George Jetson stuff."
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Germany and Japan are vivid proof that the right kind of federal investment can spur enormous growth. Neither of them has great sun yet their government policies have made them world solar energy industry leaders.
The U.S. has tremendous solar resources in the Southwest, enormous wind resources on the Midwestern plains and lakes and off its coasts, big hydrokinetic resources in its oceans and rivers, rural and inner city populations hungry for opportunity and a community of scientists and engineers brimming with creativity and can-do spirit. All it needs is leadership.
Ron Kenedi, vice president-U.S. solar operations, Sharp Corp.: "[The U.S.] created this technology, but we didn't value it because [fossil fuel] energy was so cheap…We need to reclaim our birthright."
Former Detroit autoworker Don Sloboda may not be Joe-the-plumber, but he is with the new administration on New Energy. He is currently retraining at a Michigan community college for work in the solar/semiconductor industry.
Sloboda: "It looks like the future to me…"
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Venture Capital Investment in Greentech and Renewable Energy Exceeds $2.5B in Q4 2008 and Reaches $7.7B for the Year; Greentech Media Reports Another Strong Quarter and a Record Fundraising Year, With Green Technology and Investment as a Brightspot in the Economy; Pace to Slow but Still Remain Strong Through 2009
January 5, 2009 (PR Newswire)
Why Obama's green jobs plan might work; Some states -- including Michigan -- already see renewable energy as their future: It's the only sector that appears to be making room for more employees despite the recession.
Marla Dickerson, January 4, 2009 (LA Times)
President-elect Barack Obama; Hemlock Semiconductor Corp.; Greentech Media Inc. (Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst); Donald Boudreaux, economics department chairman, George Mason University; Phil Angelides, former California Treasurer/head, Apollo Alliance; Van Jones, founder, Green for All & author, The Green Collar Economy; Ron Kenedi, vice president-U.S. solar operations, Sharp Corp.; Don Sloboda, former Detroit autoworker, retraining at a community college for work in the semiconductor industry
The U.S. is retooling for the New Energy economy and the incoming administration’s plans will lead the change. Approval of the plan by the marketplace is evident in the most recent quarterly data on New Energy venture capital investment, which was $2.5 billion+ in Q4 2008.
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- Q4 2008: $2.54 billion total investment, 115 deals
- Year 2008, total VC investment: $7.7 billion+, 350+ deals (twice 2007 dollar total)
- Big sectors: (1) Solar closed more deals in Q4 2008 than in Q3; (2) Wind, smart grid and energy storage continue to receive record amounts of venture investment; (3) $350 million+ went into biofuels feedstocks (cellulosic ethanol, algae).
- $117.2 billion+ was in invested in New Energy worldwide in 2007.
- A $100-billion investment in New Energy and Energy Efficiency could create 2 million jobs over 2 years.
- Greentech Media headquarters: Cambridge, Mass. Other offices: New York City, San Francisco and Munich.
- By sector:
Solar: Total Q4 VC Funding-$1,335.9M+ (29 deals)
Ethanol, Biofuels, Gasification: Total Q4 VC Funding-$358.55M (18 deals)
Wind: Total Q4 VC Funding-$218M+ (5 deals)
EE, DR and Smart Grid: Total Q4 VC Funding-$208.5M (11 deals)
Batteries, FCs, Energy Storage: Total Q4 VC Funding-$101.55M (14 deals)
Energy Project Development: Total Q4 VC Funding-$96M (2 deals)
E-Waste and Recycling: Total Q4 VC Funding-$74.8M (7 deals)
Green IT: Total Q4 VC Funding-$37.3M+ (7 deals)
Automotive and transportation: Total Q4 VC Funding-$29.03M (4 deals)
Green Agriculture: Total Q4 VC Funding-$25M (2 deals)
Lighting: Total Q4 VC Funding-$23.9M+ (7 deals)
New Coal Tech: Total Q4 VC Funding-$9M+ (2 deals)
Misc. Greentech: Total Q4 VC Funding-$8.6M (2 deals)
Green Buildings: Total Q4 VC Funding-$4.0M (1 deal)
Geothermal: Total Q4 VC Funding-$3.5M (1 deal)
Environmental Technology: Total Q4 VC Funding-$3.9M (2 deals)
Water: Total Q4 VC Funding-$1.5M (1 deal)
- Hemlock Semiconductor makes quartz-based polycrystalline silicon.
- Obama-Biden campaign promises included a $150 billion investment over 10 years build New Energy, incentivize plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), make homes more efficient and upgrade the national grid. Goals: 5 million new jobs, a turnaround in the fight against global climate change and eliminate U.S. dependence on Middle Eastern oil.
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- Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst, Greentech Media: "Greentech VC investors remain optimistic on this sector and still have faith in the VC model. Investors continue to fund early stage deals as well as later stage deals…At least 30 of the 115 deals this quarter were seed stage or A rounds…VCs are now digging deep in the greentech sector and looking outside traditional technologies at previously underinvested areas like energy storage, energy efficiency, recycling, water, cleaner coal and green IT…"
- Eric Straser, partner/ cleantech investment team leader, Mohr Davidow Ventures: "2008 marks the 'end of the beginning,' an end to the first few years of investment enthusiasm…In the next period, we'll see investors focus on strong investor syndicates, management teams that have proven they can execute, and value propositions that can truly deliver…We will continue to see investors allocate capital, albeit more cautiously, to cleantech as the underlying macro forces driving cleantech remain unchanged and cleantech looks well positioned to be a significant part of the new administration…"
- Eric Wesoff, Senior Analyst, Greentech Media: "We anticipate a slowing in the dollar amount but look for an increase in number of deals as investors back off from building solar and biofuel factories and look for more capital-efficient technologies and firms…"
- Rich Steudemann, former auto industry mechanical engineer, presently a quality-control expert with Hemlock Semiconductor: "This is like the era of Henry Ford…This industry is just starting to take off."