Energize Your Patriotism

2011 Year End Blog
By Nicole Hansen

Here it is the end of 2011, a year and a half since Congress’ disheartening abandonment of climate change legislation, and it’s been quite a ride on the clean energy roller coaster. Last December, many renewable energy advocates such as myself had almost lost heart — which was evident at the 2010 “Cleantech Roadshow Seminar” sponsored by Clean Tech Los Angeles. The message there was that fewer large clean tech deals were contributing to a quarterly drop in investment dollars. Many of us were concerned that maybe renewables were going to go the way of GM’s EV1.

Lately though, it’s evident that slow and steady progress is being made. At GGE, more clients are starting to call again, our partners are busy, and the word “green” is back – and it’s the color of money. That message was clear at this December’s events, also co-sponsored by CTLA, “Fostering Clean Tech in Los Angeles” and “Accelerating Innovation in the Clean Energy Economy.” Exactly one year later and the conversation has focused on money flowing into renewable energy, rather than out.

The first event was held in LACI’s La Kretz Innovation Campus, where GGE client 350Green has an office. The panel discussion included Fred Waiti, Executive Director of LACI, and Ron Nichols, General Manager of LADWP. Although it was held in a cocktail party atmosphere, the stunning take-away was that Los Angeles is becoming the country’s clean tech capital. Ron Nichols also matter-of-factly stated that there’s more than enough money to fund clean tech projects and innovation. It can be done through grants for testing and pilot projects followed by venture capital investment and/or bank loans to scale up.

The second event was held at UCLA and co-sponsored by PEW Charitable Trust. Colonel Mike Naylor of the US Marine Corps presented “DoD Driving Energy Innovation,” in which he emphasized that the greatest loss of life for US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq occurs when escorting fuel convoys, which provide fuel to power generators. In battle, radios, phones, computers and equipment must be powered – just like here at home. Col. Naylor showed a portable solar blanket, closely resembling our client FTL Solar’s Power Fold, which provides a safe alternative to generators. He stressed that renewable power installations are also needed stateside, because the US military bases are vulnerable to failures of our domestic energy infrastructure such as the San Diego blackout earlier this year affecting Camp Pendleton.

Brandon Hurlbut, Chief of Staff of the US Department of Energy, also made points that brought out my patriotic spirit. He asked: Do we in the US want to be buyers or sellers of this clean tech market? Do we want to develop, sell and use our own technologies? Are we willing to lose the market to other countries that are competing for our business? The US lags behind in clean energy investments except from venture capital. The DoE’s grant program and loan guarantees are expiring at the end of 2011. Tens of millions of dollars are about to become unavailable for start-up pilot projects. Where does that leave us?

As I remarked to the panel, this information needs to get out to the public at large. In addition to investments in the technologies, money must be allocated for publicizing them as well. We at Green Galaxy Enterprises are among many like AREDAY’s ACELI cooperating to get the word out. Some here in Hollywood, like producer Marshall Herskovitz, are working to employ effective marketing strategies as well. Nick Allen of Spring Ventures agreed that public awareness is absolutely important. All panelists emphasized that we must find ways to communicate the accurate price of all available energy without politicizing it. The public needs to be aware that clean technologies can change our lives, provide good jobs, and secure our status in the US as leaders and innovators. Isn’t that the place we American’s most want to be in the future?