Energy Storage Leaders Gather in San Diego to Discuss Innovation, Opportunities, and Challenges
From July 7-8, San Diego was host to Energy Storage USA, a two-day event focused on energy storage and the commercialization of such technologies.
Professionals from across the nation and around the globe converged to hear experts speak on key energy storage matters, including:
- Funding opportunities for commercial deployment of energy storage
- Energy storage project development
- Evaluating energy storage technologies
- Energy storage growth among various states
- Energy storage requirements
- Energy storage opportunities abroad
VC funding for clean energy in decline, but opportunities are on the rise
Kenneth Alston, Advisor to the Secretary of Energy on Clean Energy and Finance, led an informative discussion about cleantech funding trends. He shared that global early stage cleantech investment has declined 85% from the period of 2007-2014. While funding of early stage, cleantech ventures is in decline, opportunities for innovation and invention of new technologies are rapidly growing. A 2014 Energy Technology Perspectives Report by the International Energy Agency estimates that $44 trillion dollars of investment in new clean energy will be needed through 2050 to mitigate climate change. A 2014 report by Risky Business highlights the business and economic risks that will result from climate change.
The Department of Energy (DOE) has financing programs to help achieve the goals identified in the President’s Climate Action Plan. Those looking to enter the energy storage space can look to these programs to find funding from sources other than venture capital. Understanding the benefits of private and public funding and leveraging such funding — in the form of private equity, private debt, banks & bond market, grants, government debt, public-private partnerships — is critical to any early stage cleantech company. A cleantech company can apply for federal grants to fund their R&D, and hopefully create a proof of concept. After successfully demonstrating a technology, a cleantech company can utilize the DOE Loan Programs Office (LPO) to look for various forms of funds to reach commercial deployment. Finally, commercial financing is available within the private sector via the bond market and banks for cleantech companies that have successfully launched into commercial deployment.
The DOE Clean Energy Impact Investment Center is a one-stop shop to learn more about programs and resources available to those trying to commercialize their clean energy technology. The DOE has 17 national laboratories available to support research of physical science. Currently, the DOE has a $34 billion loan portfolio (with $40 billion remaining in loan authority) aimed at achieving its mission of accelerating the U.S. commercial deployment of clean energy and advanced vehicle technology.
The DOE is not only committed to helping clean technologies through funding, but also through programs such as the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (APRA-E), Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR), Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTT), and others that aim to accelerate clean technology-driven, early-stage entrepreneurs.
Even though VC funding is not finding its way into the cleantech industry as frequently or at the same levels as it was seven or eight years ago, a resounding theme of conversations at Energy Storage USA was optimism that alternative forms or funding are indeed available for early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs simply need to find funding by doing what entrepreneurs do best, innovating and exhausting all possibilities.