Prior to helping start the Cleantech Practice at Schwartz MSL, my technology PR career kicked off in the late 90s with a focus business-to-business software and infrastructure companies like MapInfo, webMethods and IONA. My days were spent talking about the evolution of web services and standards like XML, UDDI, .Net, Java and others, and how they impacted the development of ecommerce, business process automation and supply-chain integration.
If ever there was a journalist that I felt followed a similar path as me to eventually "covering" renewable energy, energy efficiency and green IT companies--albeit on the editorial side--it was Martin LaMonica. Martin is a veteran journalist of more than 20 years, having spent a good chunk of time covering enterprise technology for IDG (InfoWorld, etc) and then CNET, before managing the Green blog at CNET. Recently, he joined MIT Technology Review as an outside contributor to cover clean technologies for the publication which is famous for writing about cutting-edge innovation before it becomes mainstream.
Martin was kind enough to take a few minutes out of his new gig to answer three questions related to his role at the publication.
Schwartz MSL: What is your new assignment with MIT Technology Review? What types of topics will you be covering?
LaMonica: The new gig at MIT Tech Review is a blog on energy. The focus is clean technologies (rather than the traditional oil & gas and power industry) so it covers a lot of ground in terms of topics and companies--both startups and established energy and materials companies. With my background in covering the IT industry, I'm always looking for crossover between the high-tech industry and energy/environment.
Schwartz MSL: What do you think makes a good MIT Technology Review story? What sources do you like to speak with beyond inventors or corporate executives?
LaMonica: Tech Review does a great job of identifying interesting companies before they get a lot of attention and identifying important trends. Broadly speaking, that's what I'm looking for. Investors and academics who have evaluated a company's technology are important sources.
Schwartz MSL: Are you focused more on news or features? What’s the best way for marketers and PR professionals to submit post and article ideas?
LaMonica: The blog mainly covers news, but I plan to do more feature/trend stories for the site as well. I plan to freelance for other media outlets as well. Email's a good way to get in touch. I'm usually pretty active on Twitter and always check story comments.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 27, 2012 at 2:41 PM
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If a smart grid program launches but no one hears about it, does it save a kilowatt hour?
As mentioned yesterday, Black & Veatch recently issued its annual electric utility report which surveys the nation's utilities on the top issues facing them in the areas of operational efficiency, profitability and regulatory compliance.
In that post, I discussed how regulatory certainty is a major issue that is causing problems for utilities in their adoption of renewable energy, smart grid and other clean initiatives. It cripples the ability of utilities to make long-term investment decisions to improve reliability, upgrade an aging infrastructure and tackle environmental concerns like carbon emissions, since their unsure what their compliance burden and return on investment will be long term.
Today, I wanted to drill down on a different, more specific finding from the survey: namely, the lack of marketing support that utilities have given to energy efficiency and smart grid programs. Nearly half of all utilities stated in the report that they have done nothing to market the smart grid and energy efficiency pilots they have undertaken. Think about that. They have purchased the technology, rolled it out and done nothing, zero, zilch to let customers know they have done so.
So, essentially these utilities have put measures in place to help their customer bases become more energy efficient and save money, and in many instances, receive better customer service as a result. But the utilities haven't done anything beyond maybe a cursory letter with a monthly bill to tell them about it?
Now many utility critics would chalk this up to an industry with the reputation of having to be dragged kicking and screaming to do anything by regulator and legislators. I don't think that's true.
I attribute it to the "truck roll" mentality of the utility industry and their slow adoption of anything that involves direct customer contact. The industry spent decades developing and implementing technology that enabled minimal customer contact, including automated meter reading (AMR), automatic shut offs, etc.
Now, with smart grid programs, we expect utilities to become consumer marketing gurus that engage with their customers individually and provide slick web-based portals and mobile apps with detailed usage information and money saving tips? It is unrealistic. In fact, only about 80 percent of those surveyed even have customer portals which sounds like a lot, but puts them well behind most other service sectors.
It's time that regulators require some form of legitimate marketing of smart grid and energy efficiency programs, that also allows the utilities to recoup the costs through a minor rate increase. By getting the word out about these programs, you will have rate payers eventually conserving more energy and saving money anyway which would offset the longer-term impact of the rate increase.
Some home-energy management players offer marketing programs to their utility partners as part of smart grid programs and pilots. They have already done the work of hiring consumer marketing professionals and invested in behavioral science research to help get customers educated about and engaged in new programs.
It is important that utilities invest in these services or launch campaigns of their own to educate their customers about the benefits of smart grid and energy efficiency. If utilities market these programs and the US government does a good job with its Green Button initiative, the smart grid industry will continue its rapid growth and everyone will benefit.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 12, 2012 at 12:28 PM
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Black & Veatch issued its annual electric utility report which surveys the nation's utilities on the top issues facing them in the areas of operational efficiency, profitability and regulatory compliance. The findings of this years report were fascinating on a number of levels, but one major thing stood out to me: the top four issues are definitively linked by a single problem.
According to the survey, reliability, aging infrastructure, environment and long-term investment are the top four issues, in order, on the minds of electric utilities. After reading the survey, I can't help but think that we need to ignore the order in terms of emphasis and focus on the third and fourth issues.
Reliability and aging infrastructure are both significant issues, but symptoms of the lack of long-term investment. Unfortunately, long-term investment is being hampered by the third issue, the environment, due to uncertainty around environmental regulations.
So what's the conclusion? Utilities need long-term regulation that isn't subject to the whims of campaigning politicians and short-term economic cycles in order to drive the type of long-term capital investment that is needed to upgrade its aging infrastructure and fix reliability issues. Period.
There is only one thing that regulated industries hate worse than regulation and that's regulatory uncertainty. Asking utilities to make long-term business decisions and capital investments (for some, the primary mechanism for securing rate increases) when they are unsure what regulatory burden they need to factor into their long-term projections is not fair.
While utilities wonder, for example, whether or not we'll have a price on carbon within the next five years, they are being asked to make long-term decisions on new generation (natural gas, solar, wind, etc), energy efficiency (i.e. smart grid) and other programs that will reduce exposure to carbon. Uncertainty with regards to tax incentives around renewable energy and electric vehicles is also hampering the ability of utilities to plan out new generation capacity that is supposed to provide electricity to its customer base for the next 30 years.
On the consumer side, there is a major lack of awareness and education on the different programs that utilities have put in place. This isn't helped by the fact that nearly half of all utilities have made no attempt to market their smart grid programs according to the survey. That lack of marketing is likely driven by the fact that a lot of the incentives for smart grid rollout and adoption are short term incentives.
The utility industry members need and want regulatory certainty in order to better run their businesses. Consumers want utilities to offer programs that help them become more efficient. Renewable energy, smart grid and energy efficiency companies want customers incentivised to adopt cleaner technologies.
So isn't the only thing left to do to encourage the federal government and state regulatory bodies to give everyone what they want?
Posted by Jason Morris on June 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM
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There was standing room only as the Renewable Energy Finance Forum (REFF) – London - Europe’s largest and most established event for renewable energy finance and investment, which celebrated its 12th year anniversary. The highly successful 2-day conference united 400 investors and project developers from over 25 countries.
Lord Browne opened the conference that facilitated thought-provoking, open and highly controversial presentations and discussions on the European global renewables financial market. Other leading speakers included, Hermann Scheer, German MP and Chairman of the World Council for Renewable Energy, Peter Gutman of Standard Chartered Bank, Craig Coborn of BP Alternative Energy and Yvo de Boer, Former Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change & Global Advisor on Climate & Sustainable Development, KPMG.
Over 2 days, speakers composed of almost 70 experts in the renewable energy sector continued the tradition from the last twelve years of bringing together key investors, bankers, developers and renewable energy service providers.
The renewable energy industry has achieved considerable successes here in Europe, which accounted for 44% of all renewable energy deals in 2009, up from 38% in 2008. That being said, the renewable industry is still in the midst of a very challenging period, with the EU Directive mandating 20% renewable energy by 2020 now in full force. Wind remains the most popular renewable and it has been helped along by government incentives as it has gained more than half of the roughly 26 billion invested globally in clean energy in the first quarter of 2010.
As a media sponsor, Schwartz attended the sessions and had a series of interesting conversations on our stand, leading us to take home a few key messages. Firstly, there are some real challenges in funding – the scale of investment needed for infrastructure projects such as the proposed supergrid is far beyond anything ever attempted in the history of mankind! Furthermore, the sector still hasn’t passed the institutional investment threshold – and how can it in the foreseeable future since it seems impossible to accurately calculate risks, and thus ROIs, on long-term windfarms for example.
Another interesting development was the confidence in solar and the belief that grid parity was achievable within the next five to ten years as panel costs come down. Currently, there are concerns about the key Italian and Spanish markets, but there were some positive sentiments about both. Of course the debate regarding feed-in tariffs went around in circles as usual with equally passionate supporters and opponents. However, all agreed that consistency and long term commitments from governments were essential whatever they decide.
With the momentum gained here in London, the conference moves on to San Francisco from September 29 to 30 celebrating its 3rd year of REFF West in the United States.
Posted by Richard Hayhurst on September 30, 2010 at 1:44 PM
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One quick hit this Monday morning involving a Schwartz PR client and the cleantech start-up world. Forbes created a slide show featuring the 12 hottest cleantech start ups according to SharesPost.
At SharesPost.com, you can find bulletin boards of private company shares, including offers to buy and sell in companies like Suniva, Bloom Energy, Amyris Biotechnologies, Altra Biofuels, Altarock Energy, eSolar, GreatPoint Energy, GridPoint and Bright Source Energy. These are some great early stage companies backed by a "whose who" of cleantech VCs, including NEA Ventures, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia and others, in markets like smart grid, solar, biofuels and fuel cells.
As investors wonder about private company liquidity even amid some potential cleantech IPOs, secondary market options like SharesPost are stepping in. It is an exciting time to be at the intersection of clean technology and private equity.
The cleantech VC world will come together next week at AlwaysOn GoingGreen East in Boston, where the organization showcases the GoingGreen 50. Drop us a line if you're planning to attend, as Schwartz handles the public relations for that event.
Posted by Jason Morris on March 1, 2010 at 1:01 PM
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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas for a number of cleantech companies in solar and smart grid, as the project finance, venture capital and IPO markets continue their winter thaw. News of new deals has capped off what has been a pretty good PR month for the cleantech industry.
Last week Silver Spring Networks announced a $100 million round of financing, which was a surprise if only because the company was the hottest IPO candidate of any mentioned at the GreenBeat conference in November. Driving the round? Maybe reports that the smart grid market will double in size by 2014.
So who is going public? Solyndra, the CIGS thin-film manufacturer and DOE loan guarantee recipient. The company is looking to raise $300 million in a public offering to take place sometime in 2010.
SunRun, a residential PPA provider, also received $90 million more in backing from Bancorp to help finance residential solar installations. SunRun has been very successful in markets like California, Massachusetts and Arizona.
Finally, First Solar announced the completion and sale of a utility-scale plant in California. The new plant will power 17,000 homes and as VentureBeat reports, is likely a harbringer of more utility-scale plants in the near future.
These are all good signs for the solar industry as more experts predict growth in number of US projects and shrinking solar supplies in 2010. All told, outside of the weak international agreement from Copenhagen, it has been a pretty good December for Cleantech.
Posted by Jason Morris on December 21, 2009 at 5:06 PM
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President Obama "filled in the cracks" on the long-rumored Cash for Caulkers program yesterday as part of a new jobs plan. The latest details have consumers eligible for a $12,000 tax credit if they take steps to weatherize their homes. The goal would be to put contractors back to work and also stimulate the buying of home products aimed at energy efficiency, which would be good news for Home Depot, Lowes, Walmart and others sellers of home improvement materials.
We first heard of the Cash for Caulkers program leading up to the GreenBeat Conference on Smart Grid technologies. John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, had suggested the idea to policymakers some time ago.
This caps the third consecutive day of positive news around renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change, as Obama looks to bolster US credibility on energy use and greenhouse gas emissions. The news coincides with the Cop15 in Copenhagen.
Speaking of energy efficiency, the New York Times reports on a new study that says that focusing on efficiency could reduce energy consumption by 30 percent by 2030, thereby reducing the need for the US to build new power plants. The article reminded me of the fact that renewable energy continues to get the lion's share of media attention, even as people look for cost-effective, pragmatic and near-term ways to cut energy usage in a down economic environment.
That is not to say that renewables get too much attention as they are a critically important part of energy independence and the US economy. But rather that companies with legitimate energy efficiency products need to do a better job marketing the size of the problem they solve and the potential ROI for customers--and the economy at large.
Posted by Jason Morris on December 9, 2009 at 2:27 PM
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This afternoon at GreenBeat 2009, John Doerr will give a keynote focused on the main theme of the event: The Smart Grid. With the recent $3.4 billion in stimulus funds allocated to projects, the smart grid market has a PR problem, becoming a lightening rod for debate about its cleantech and stimulus credentials.
I am of the personal opinion that any technology that reduces our energy use is cleantech. I also think that anything that helps consumers save money and makes energy more efficient has huge economic value. After all, utility bills likely rank third after mortgage/rent and car payments as the most expensive budgetary item for households. Reducing utility bills by even 20 percent creates more consumer spending power which is a key cog in an economic recovery.
But back to Doerr...beyond just his affiliation with one of Silicon Valley's premier VC firms, he is a bright and interesting guy. He has some creative and pragmatic ideas on how to address the energy, environmental and economic crises, including one written about today by the New York Times (via Yahoo! Finance).
Doerr apparently has pitched a weatherization stimulus that would incent homeowners to upgrade the energy efficiency of their homes through improvements in insulation, windows, etc. Doerr calls the program, "Cash for Caulkers" and word is that the White House is seriously considering it.
I am looking forward to today's keynote to hear Doerr's opinion on Smart Grid and see if he has any other ideas that should be promoted as policy. Doerr's speech should be the first in a number of compelling presentations at the GreenBeat 2009 event.
Posted by Jason Morris on November 18, 2009 at 4:38 PM
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The next few days will be fun as the Silicon Valley VC and private company investment community comes together at two Cleantech events. Full disclosure: We're doing PR for one of the events and have six clients speaking at the other.
First, today and tomorrow, the Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations conference kicks off with CEOs from 39 CEOs presenting why their company will be one of the ones that helps drive the Green Economy. Six Schwartz clients (Applied Quantum Technology, Cool Earth Solar, Joule Biotechnologies, Sentilla, Skyline Solar and SolarEdge) will present to a "whose who" of VC and private equity firms.
Then, tomorrow afternoon, VentureBeat kicks off its GreenBeat 2009 event, The Conference on the Smart Grid. The event has an elite roster of speakers including John Doerr, Al Gore, Don Wood and Vinod Khosla. It also brings together innovative Smart Grid companies large and small, from Siemens, IBM and Cisco, to Tendril and EcoFactor. Schwartz is a Silver Sponsor of the event and we hope to see you there!
Posted by Jason Morris on November 17, 2009 at 12:14 PM
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Monday morning saw two pieces of good news for the Green Economy as it relates to job creation.
A study published by three universities shows that President Obama's focus on Green Collar jobs will help create 1.9 million jobs and boost annual household income by $1000. If the $1000 figure focuses on an increase in gross household income, the study likely fails to measure the increase in discretionary household income that could result in more efficient home energy practices driven in part by Smart Grid adoption by consumers. Consumer spending is a huge economic stimulus in its own right and reducing one of the largest monthly budgetary items for households, while boosting gross income, would be a huge boon for other sectors.
A separate study by iSupply shows that the solar panel supply glut is working itself out, which could lead to recovering solar prices and kickstart a new wave of solar cell and module manufacturing. With many Asian and European solar manufacturers looking to boost manufacturing capacity inside the US to take advantage of government incentives and grants, and a number of US companies ramping up their manufacturing capactity, the result could be a wave of new manufacturing jobs in places like Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Silicon Valley.
These trends, combined with a thawing in financing and a broader economic recovery, point to 2010 and 2011 being boom years for Cleantech job creation.
Posted by Jason Morris on November 16, 2009 at 1:06 PM
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The DOE issued a release today about the $3.4 billion in grants issued as part of the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA, aka the Stimulus Package). The release is here and there are links for downloading details on who will receive the funds as well as a map of where the funds will be invested.
It is a happy day for Smart Grid technology and service providers.
Tags: American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
, stimulus bill
Posted by Jason Morris on October 27, 2009 at 9:55 PM
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News today, that the Department of Energy will dole out $3.4 billion in Smart Grid stimulus money tomorrow, in what was already shaping up to be a noisy public affairs and public relations week at Solar Power International. The first speculation that something was coming soon was posted by Matt Marshall of VentureBeat this morning.
With much of the US utility market and solar industry gathered in Anaheim for the SPI conference, this will no doubt give the cleantech industry as a whole a major boost. Venture Capitalists made cleantech the top funding market for Q3, but were having trouble raising new funds. With government dollars flowing, policy driving cleantech adoption and a slowly improving economy, it is only a matter of time before we start seeing the health of VC and private equity fund raises improve as LPs jump back on the cleantech bandwagon.
The news will also inject even more life into the GreenBeat 2009 event in November, where leaders in smart grid policy, technology and adoption will get together to discuss the market environment for 2010. Al Gore and others will be keynoting the event and Schwartz is a Silver Sponsor.
For updates at Solar Power, follow @jasonmorris and I'll try to report back on major happenings at the show.
Posted by Jason Morris on October 26, 2009 at 6:49 PM
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Out of the hundreds of standards that will ultimately be needed to run the nation’s emerging Smart Grid, the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) announced it has determined about 80 of them in its new report. Smart grid standards have received a lot of PR in the past few months as many predict they will be the top road block to the market maturing and having its full impact.
Released during this year’s GridWeek conference in Washington, DC, the draft is open for comments for the next month. Jeff St. John at Greentech media did a solid overview of the release. Designed to guide utilities and vendors as they roll out services, products and software, these standards are being born out of a Smart Grid Conceptual Reference Model, which NIST is using as a guide to identify and keep track of all the various systems and requirements.
NIST highlights two groups that are being formed to help direct the future of the Smart Grid—where savvy and well networked Smart Grid businesses will be participating:
--Smart Grid Interoperability Panel: a public-private partnership established by NIST at the end of this year to offer more permanent organizational structure to support the ongoing evolution of the framework.
--Smart Grid Architecture Board: a subcommittee to the Smart Grid Interoperability Panel, which will lead the development and management of the Smart Grid Conceptual Model.
While many panelists and board members have likely been identified by NIST, there still should be opportunities for Smart Grid businesses to lobby themselves into the groups. Take the Cyber Security Coordination Task Group (CSCTG) for example, where security companies are helping build the requirements that address all cyber security elements of the Smart Grid.
Not selected by the NIST? Well, the releases of new standards and regulations will offer repeated PR opportunities for businesses to offer insight, commentary and thought leadership to the media—and help get their company and technology recognized.
Take this report, for example. What’s noticeably absent? What does NIST need to focus on in Phase 2? What are your thoughts?
, Smart Grid Architecture Board
, Smart Grid Interoperability Panel
Posted by Erin DelLlano on October 7, 2009 at 12:15 PM
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Yesterday we had the pleasure of having Camille Ricketts, the lead Green writer for VentureBeat, into our San Francisco office. For the twenty PR clients we work with in solar, smart grid, biofuels, water desalination, carbon management and Green IT, Camille is a top contact--especially for those looking to reach a green investment audience. Camille considers herself to still be a bit new to the Green space, although at more than six months she is a grizzled veteran in the high-turnover world of media.
She ran through a good background of VentureBeat and her specific focus, all of which was useful. But perhaps the most helpful information for a Green PR person is tips and tricks for working with a journalist more effectively. So onto Camille's preferences:
-Follow Up: She is very conscientious about email pitches and will follow up on nearly everything if given the time. Therefore, she prefers second contact to come in the form of an email and requests a bit of patience because she will try to respond.
-Social Media: Camille doesn't mind direct messages on Twitter as long as you have something that can be of use to her. She'll read them and Tweet you back if she is interested.
-Sources: While Camille likes speaking with venture capitalists, she doesn't want a VC source that is simply going to cheerlead for a company. She wants details on why a deal came together and why the VC chose your company over a competitor.
-Embargoes & Exclusives: Both Camille and VentureBeat as an outlet, appreciate the use of embargoes and exclusives by PR people. They will honor embargoes as long as a PR firm is good to its word and VentureBeat does not get scooped after agreeing to one. VentureBeat writers pride themselves on integrity and will not agree to something they won't honor. Like almost all media outlets, they like an exclusive because it allows them to do a longer piece without fear of being scooped. The good news is that I think they're likely to get more exclusives moving forward thanks to a strong syndication relationship with the New York Times web site.
-Future Focus: Camille expects to be writing a lot about Smart Grid and Green IT in the coming weeks as VentureBeat ramps up for its GreenBeat 2009 event in November. With Al Gore, John Doerr and other high profile presenters, it should be a great event.
Overall, Camille shared some great information about working with a top outlet covering how finance and policy are impacting the cleantech market.
Posted by Jason Morris on September 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM
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The last few weeks may have been the best PR stretch of 2009 for solar, wind and other cleantech and green markets, especially from a finance standpoint. It should provide a considerable uplift to spirits at AlwaysOn GoingGreen next week as the cleantech venture capital, private equity and investment banking community gathers to discuss industry issues in water, smart grid, energy management, solar, wind, energy storage and renewable fuels. Some of the positive news from the past few weeks:
-Treasury grants started flowing from the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA), promising to fund a new way of renewable energy projects in wind and solar.
-The Department of Energy (DOE) loan program blessed Solyndra with a $500+ million guarantee, promising to create more than 3,000 green collar jobs in the process.
-Vinod Khosla's firm, Khosla Ventures, raised a $1.1 billion round which is expected to help fund dozens, if not scores or start-ups across the sector.
-IBM predicted that a "smart grid of water" business could be worth $20 billion over five years.
-Cleantech patents hit an all time high in Q2, showing that companies and entrepreneurs continue to innovate and that many new Green technologies are likely coming to market in 2010 and beyond.
That last bullet flew under the radar in many circles (a partner in a late stage VC firm I talked to said he had not heard anything about IBM's interest in water) and water as a whole gets less attention than energy on a national level. I am a firm believer that water is the next big sector that will attract massive investment and media attention, as the US comes to better understand that water is a national issue.
Couple all of these developments with Hara and other companies being successful in their fundraising activities, and you have what looks to be a significant financial thaw across various green industries. It could also be with Obama's speech on healthcare reform tonight that some form of bill gets passed and that the Energy & Water bill moves back to the top of the legislative priority list, which could result in the creation of the Green Bank and more funding avenues for cleantech companies.
With GoingGreen, PVSec, Solar Power International, Dow Jones Alternative Energy Innovations Conference, Power-Gen, Clean Tech Futures and a number of other events upcoming, we'll be able to monitor the impact of all of this news on the collective psyche of the cleantech market. It should be a fun final third to 2009.
**Schwartz Plug Alert**
We issued a release today highlighting the growth of our Cleantech & Green PR and Public Affairs Practice during 2009. We've become the Agency of Record for ten great organizations thus far in 2009, thereby doubling our footprint in the market. It's an exciting time to be in PR.
, doe grants
Posted by Jason Morris on September 9, 2009 at 9:54 PM
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I need to preface this post with the fact that SharesPost is a Schwartz PR client, but what they're doing is very interesting and extremely applicable to the Cleantech industry and its investors. So while I am being and will always be transparent, I am not claiming to be free of bias.
It has been well covered that VCs have poured billions into cleantech and green the last few years with markets like solar, wind, biofuels, smart grid and batteries receiving a good chunk of those investments. In fact, thin-film solar alone received several hundred millions of dollars in 2008, creating the potential for several big winners or losers among cleantech investments. Very respected firms like Draper Fisher Jurvetson, New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Khosla, Kleiner Perkins and Good Energies led the way, and many VC firms followed.
And while cleantech and green PR firms, the media and venture capitalists all did a great job publicizing the investments, there was an undertone of concern with regards to how the companies would deliver a return to their shareholders (VCs, entpreneurs and employees) and how well served the limited partner (LP) community would be by such investments.
With the credit crunch and struggles of the broader economy, many predicted a cleantech M&A shakeout that would last into 2010 before the market started a recovery. While there has been some M&A, the stimulus package, government adoption, follow-on rounds from existing investors and other measures have helped many cleantech companies weather the storm. So while private companies are not selling themsleves for dimes on the dollar (good news for investors), the market is still not strong enough to support a rash of cleantech IPOs. Or IPOs in Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.
So what is the best exit for some private cleantech company shareholders? Enter SharesPost and the hassle-free secondary market exit. The company brings together buyers (private equity firms, VC firms, high net-worth investors and the companies themselves) and sellers (angel investors, VC firms, entrepreneurs and employees) of shares in private companies to provide a third exit for private company sharesholders. SharesPost already has had one Tesla Motors transaction go to contract and escrow, and just released a third-party report on SolarCity which may help facilitate more trades. Multiple buy and sell posts exist for both companies.
Private company data has been a major missing component in facilitating secondary market trades in the past and SharesPost is looking to solve that. This will be a good thing for the market, as it will help keep executive talent working at emerging growth companies, versus seeing everyone head to larger cleantech companies like First Solar, GE and Applied Materials.
Expect to see more Cleantech companies on SharesPost in the near future as some of the market darlings realize they are in it for the long haul and founders, employees and early-stage investors decide they need liquidity.
Posted by Jason Morris on July 22, 2009 at 7:22 PM
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A recent report from CleanTech Brief highlighted an increase in cleantech venture funding and investing to $1.2 billion. This was a quarter-over-quarter increase of 12 percent and illustrates that the green portion of the Stimulus package and other cleantech regulatory measures are helping to renew interest in cleantech start ups.
Companies in batteries, biofuels, smart grid and others were the main beneficiaries, including a $17.3 million investment in Control4. Solar investment is way down from past years, but it also saw an unprecedented run with nine-figure rounds. If the Intersolar 2009 conference is any indication, solar is surviving the recession fairly well with Uncle Sam poised to become the world's largest solar consumer.
Speaking of government green spending, more good news for the cleantech industry came from the G8 Summit, where leaders of some of the world's largest economies recognized the potential of the cleantech industry to help boost the global economy. The summit discussed cleantech policy measures, investment and adoption.
As we look at 2010, it is clear that world governments will spend unprecedented dollars on cleantech, energy efficiency, etc. It is also likely that other technologies will start to come to the forefront that have to date, gone under publicized, such as water desalination technologies and advances in tidal energy. All of this is pointing toward a much better second half of 2009 for cleantech companies.
Posted by Jason Morris on July 13, 2009 at 12:15 PM
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According to a post on VentureBeat this week, cleantech stimulus funds targeted at wind, solar, smart grid, biofuels, carbon management and other key categories, will starting trickling into company coffers come September. New Energy Finance Group predicts that while some cleantech funding will flow in 2009 resulting in a thawing of bank loans and cleantech venture capital, the bulk of the money will be invested in 2010 and 2011.
As a result, September through December will likely be a critical time for cleantech companies in search of government investment or project financing, In addition to the stimulus money, the fourth quarter will begin the FY 2011 appropriations process in earnest. Cleantech companies will likely need to focus on public affairs and government relations during that time to take advantage of what could be the last budgeting cycle with a cleantech-friendly White House and Congress in control.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 23, 2009 at 11:27 AM
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A new study covered by Kate Galbraith at the NY Times says that Green Collar Jobs grew twice as quickly as jobs in the rest of the economy from 1998-2007. Given that this study doesn't cover the hyper investment in solar, wind, smart grid, green IT, biofuels, geothermal, batteries, green autos, etc. during 2008, and the hiring that resulted, my guess is that the next study will show even faster growth over the past 10 years. Factor in green stimulus measures during 2009 and you likely have something approaching a Green New Deal.
It would be interesting to see what they specifically classify as a green job. Take Schwartz PR. We have more than a dozen cleantech clients and more than 40 people working with those companies. We couldn't say that in 1998, so technically they have been created by the movement to green products, services and technologies. My guess is that this study dramtically underestimates the number of people who have part or all of their employment driven by the growth in the cleantech market, especially people working in green pr, public affairs, marketing, legal services, media and investing.
Still, it's good to see that one of the major labor trends of the past decade, which has become a mainstream pitch in the cleantech PR arsenal, has been validated.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 10, 2009 at 2:39 PM
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Sarah Lacy has a great interview with Vinod Khosla on Yahoo! Tech|Ticker, talking about the incredible opportunity that the Cleantech Revolution is creating for companies and investors. Khosla basically says that the Cleantech movement will "produce ten Googles."
How is that possible? Khosla says that Cleantech is not about solar, wind or biofuels, but about re-engineering the way society lives, from lighting to concrete. When asked about the size of the problem, Khosla says that he sees only opportunities. Furthermore, he talks about how clean technologies have to achieve unsubsidized market viability within 5-7 years or they will struggle to be an investment and commercial success. Overall, just a very interesting interview with someone with an amazing track record of finding breakthrough technologies and companies.
Do I agree with every thing Khosla says? Nope. However, I do agree that Cleantech is bigger than the Web. This is an important point since many have called it a fad.
Cleantech, green, sustainability or whatever you want to call it, deals with a number of fundamental issues that impact all aspects of human life. Examples include drinking water (desalination) and irrigation in drought-ridden regions of the world, transportation (biofuels, batteries, green auto), remote and distributed energy generation (solar, wind, batteries), manufacturing, consumer products, energy efficiency (smart grid, energy management), etc.
I also agree with him that every technology gets overhyped at some point and many cleantech PR campaigns have contributed to that problem by pushing hyperbole when there was nothing behind the courtain. Biofuels are feeling the backlash now and wind is starting to be questioned because of energy storage problems. But will they go away entirely or will they just evolve into something stronger, with savvy entrepeneurs overcoming many of today's challenges? I think it is definitely the latter.
Will the Cleantech movement create ten Googles? I wouldn't bet against it...or Khosla.
Posted by Jason Morris on June 3, 2009 at 4:39 PM
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In a recent interview with The Independent, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown hinted that a slew of green initiatives will be announced as part of the Government's April 22 budget review, designed to drag Britain out of recession on a low carbon path.
Top of the list are new plans for electric and hybrid vehicles, which echo London Mayor Boris Johnson's pledge to make the city "the electric car capital of Europe" earlier this month. The Government is expected to announce trials of environmentally friendly cars in two or three cities and initiate talks with utilities companies to roll out a national network of roadside charging points.
Brown also said that the Government was considering a "scrappage" scheme to give consumers a £2,000 windfall when they trade their older, polluting cars in for new, lower emissions alternatives – a step called for by the UK's ailing automotive industry, which saw new car sales slide almost 30% in Q1 2009.
The news coincides with two European Investment Bank loans of £340m to Jaguar Land Rover and £373m to Nissan to fuel the development of green vehicles in their UK plants. But Brown's intent to deploy more low emission vehicles within the public sector should also act as encouragement to smaller, UK-based manufacturers, such as Smith Electric Vehicles and Modec, which are already seeing strong traction amongst high-profile enterprises such as DHL, Royal Mail, Tesco and UPS.
But aside from the automotive industry, what other environmental initiatives are the Government proposing? Well, Brown has promised to set a target of creating 400,000 jobs in "green industries" over the next five years, which loosely encompass "pharmaceuticals, healthcare, education, the creative industries, information technology, bioscience and advanced manufacturing".
Other plans are mooted to include greater support for the development of clean coal, guidelines for the installation of smart meters in every home in Britain, and relaxed planning rules to allow more wind farms to be built.
The latter measure will help to quell some of the ill feeling that the Department of Energy and Climate Change generated last month when it announced that the £50m well reserved for funding solar projects on public buildings had dried up three months early.
While not as far reaching as the US' stimulus package, the rumoured measures at least highlight a growing appreciation that green technology could act as a major catalyst for reviving the UK's economy, resurrecting Britain's once thriving automotive sector and reducing the country's dependency on the financial and services industries.
We'll be watching closely for the official budget announcement later this month.
Tags: electric vehicles
, green stimulus
, hybrid vehicles
, jaguar land rover
, smith electric vehicles
Posted by Luke Nava on April 14, 2009 at 9:07 AM
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Earth2Tech has an interesting post on the fact that the stimulus package and cleantech funding from the federal government may be starting to thaw the VC funding freeze. Three companies announced funding this week, which was newsworthy in itself. But also interesting is the fact that none of the companies were in solar and instead were in markets that took the brunt of VC indifference during Q1.
Wind, biofuels and smart grid were the three markets drawing interest from several noteworthy investors, including GE Capital, DFJ, Polaris and Altira Group, a slightly less well known cleantech and energy venture firm with a pretty broad portfolio. Altira invested in both Southwest Windpower and OPX Biotechnology.
The third company that received funding was Ember, the company behind the ZigBee wireless networking and control standard for smart meters. All three of the aforementioned markets, wind, smart grid and biofuels, stand to benefit from the stimulus package, including renewable energy and smart grid loan guarantees, tax credits, state energy projects and direct investment from the DOE.
We've talked before about how the Federal Government would serve as a bridge investor for the cleantech industry and eventually attract VC dollars back into the market. When companies can get capital from other sources that don't dilute company equity, it takes some of the risk out of the investment for private equity groups and VCs, while making the return potentially much more lucrative.
It used to be that PR was the engine that drove visibility with investment audiences. Now cleantech companies, including solar, wind, smart grid, energy management, biofuels and others, should be thinking about integrating public affairs and PR together to secure government funding and VC dollars.
Will the stimulus ultimately bring back the cleantech VC market? Time will tell, but having the government as a customer and/or financial backer could be the thing that gets cleantech and green companies through the economic downturn.
, stimulus package
Posted by Jason Morris on April 7, 2009 at 12:20 PM
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GoingGreen East 2009 was full of great chatter about energy efficiency, batteries, storage, VCs and the government's deep pockets. Check out a quick podcast discussing what we saw here.
, venture capital
Posted by Mike Farber on March 23, 2009 at 4:34 PM
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AlwaysOn GoingGreen East is underway here at the Four Seasons Boston. Some first impressions:
- Packed show. Despite the economy plenty of VCs, entrepreneurs, bankers, lawyers, cleantech pr types etc have deemed GoingGreen worth attendeding.
- Stellar panels. All top the VCs and east coast cleantech cos are here.
- Tone is realistic, not pessimistic. Cleantech cos will take off, it just may take a bit longer b/c of the recession.
- Particular enthusiam for efficiency, smart grid, battery storage.
Best way to stay on top of things is to follow our tweets, @mfarbs.
Posted by Mike Farber on March 10, 2009 at 12:03 PM
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As the government begins to allocate billions in stimulus funds for shovel-ready projects in renewable energy, smart grid and energy management (along with Department of Energy investments in cleantech R&D), a debate is raging about accountability versus speed. The Obama administration is demanding accountability and transparency in terms of how the funds are distributed, while agencies are going to struggle with quickly doling out the funds they will direct as part of the bill.
Regardless of how the government balances speed and accountability, there are three undeniable points about the stimulus:
-The amount going into green and cleantech is enormous
-The quicker those funds are invested, the better it will be for job creation
-The money needs to be invested transparently and not just go to the same government contractors and companies that have milked Uncle Sam for the past three decades
So how quickly can the funds get invested in a responsible manor? The NY Times had an example last week where $25 billion for electric cars had yet to be invested by the DOE. With GM on the doorstep of bankruptcy protection, you may hear new calls from Silicon Valley for those funds to be invested in ground-up electric car and battery manufacturers like Tesla Motors and A123.
CNET also has a story today discussing how many start-ups will need to figure out Public Affairs pretty quickly or else they may not get the funding they need to survive. The Federal Government, with the stimulus package, has become the largest cleantech investor and project financier. This creates a trremendous Public Affairs oppprtunity for companies in wind, solar, biofuels, smart grid and energy management, and grant proposal writing is not enough.
Bottom line: Cleantech start-ups need to quickly learn how to tap into stimulus funds to grow their companies and win government projects.
, green GR
, smart grid
Posted by Jason Morris on March 5, 2009 at 1:16 PM
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Yep, we here at Renewablog have our geek side. Spent part of my long weekend poring over a couple of old copies of the MIT Technology Review. They certainly know how to fuse clean tech science and business viability in a reader-friendly way.
My favorite recent piece is the February cover on the "smart" grid. Actual reporting (site visit to GE Global Labs in NY) and killer graphics showing how the current grid is set up backwards for solar and wind (big pipes by thirsty urban centers, small pipes in the solar Southwest and windy Great Plains) make it a must read.
I now have another set of tweets to follow...
, MIT Tech Review
Posted by Mike Farber on February 17, 2009 at 10:29 AM
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I think everyone would agree with me that regardless of whether you support the stimulus package or are against it, any sort of resolution is welcome so we can stop hearing about the different machinations of the bill.
In any event, lots of stimulus-related talk today:
The NY Times says Tech will get a big boost, including high-speed connectivity ($7 billion), digitizing of health records ($20 billion for EMRs) and smart grid support ($20 billion). This definitely creates a large public affairs opportunity for relevant companies.
CNN says that the price tag has dropped below $800 billion and that an agreement could come today. Time is tight with Obama wanting the bill on his desk by Monday.
The Senate version is being applauded by AWEA for its support of the wind market.
It will be interesting from a Public Affairs standpoint to see how the funds are allocated. A chunk will definitely go to the states, while agencies will have budget for "shovel-ready" projects.
Even if signed next week, expect the stimulus to be a major focus of upcoming cleantech events, including the upcoming AlwaysOn GoingGreen conference in Boston.
, emergency medical records
Posted by Jason Morris on February 11, 2009 at 12:45 PM
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On Smart Grid: President Obama has really driven Smart Grid into the public consciousness and it is showing in the media and blogosphere. Expect it to be a hot topic at DistribuTECH next week when the "who's who" in grid and energy technology meet in San Diego to discuss new developments in the industry. More than $50 billion will be sunk into Smart Grid under the proposed stimulus package currently in the House. So while escalating media coverage makes for a ripening public relations opportunity, the government investment has to make government relations another priority.
Transparency & Green: Back when outing cases of green washing was all of the rage, it became apparent to cleantech marketing and PR organizations that transparency was going to be key (it should be anyway) if people were going to believe the substance or objectivity of a company's claims around going green. FoodServiceWarehouse.com (Full disclosure: a client) is taking the right approach by turning its Green Commercial Kitchen Certification Program over to an independent panel. This is at a time when there are plenty of companies out there that are introducing green certifications for the sole purpose of generating consulting dollars. FoodServiceWarehouse.com's program doesn't require any purchases from the company and is free. Bravo to a company doing it right.
Posted by Jason Morris on January 27, 2009 at 1:37 PM
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