Sunday, April 10, 2016

Alternative energy innovation, investment and the Valley of Death

With the Paris Conference COP21 behind us, one welcomes the flowering of new funding, financing and investment opportunities aimed at developers of solutions for problems wrought by climate change.

According to Reuters (11 Mar 2016) :
The Green Climate Fund (GCF), set up by the U.N. climate change negotiations, has so far allocated just $168 million to eight projects, in a decision made before December's Paris climate summit.
    Another 22 proposals for private and public-sector projects are now in the fund's pipeline. They will ask for $1.5 billion from the fund, to back activities worth more than $5 billion.
They include efforts to improve energy efficiency, strengthen disaster risk management and boost agricultural resilience in Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific, as well as to help small island developing states adapt to climate change.
The new Green initiatives include the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, among whose members are Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, George Soros, Jack Ma, Mark Zuckerberg and many more. Their opening statement makes a telling point:
Experience indicates that even the most promising ideas face daunting commercialization challenges and a nearly impassable Valley of Death between promising concept and viable product, which neither government funding nor conventional private investment can bridge... These investors will certainly be motivated partly by the possibility of making big returns over the long-term, but also by the criticality of an energy transition. Success will provide the economic proof points necessary for the mainstream market-driven clean energy economy required for our planetary future.
However, the likelihood of large investment funds actually reaching small innovators seems low. While those who have money to invest do acknowledge the 'valley of death', they still set the rules, and the participants in Bill Gates' Breakthrough Energy Coalition are not exactly folks who have made careers of risking everything to save the planet. For all their talk of risk, the very statement "Success will provide the economic proof points necessary for the mainstream market-driven clean energy economy required for our planetary future" makes it clear that they expect proof of no risk before making investments in innovation. And that their prime objective is making money, not saving the environment.

I hope I am wrong.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am the developer of a portable device that combines wind and solar electrical energy and stores it in rechargeable batteries. Project information can be seen at  .

Daniel B. O'Leary   April 2016

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