Is the cleantech boom about to go bust? If you read this article in Wired Magazine by Juliet Eilperin, you might come away with that conclusion. If so, you’d be wrong. To the contrary, an article at Forbes Magazine by “cleantech market intelligence” firm Pike Research editorial director Richard Martin comes to the completely opposite conclusion.
Our January 10 webinar,“The Year Ahead in Cleantech,” included a forecast for combined revenue across the industries and technologies covered in our smart energy practice – biopower, energy storage services, distributed solar, wind energy, geothermal, etc. – at nearly $300 billion. By way of comparison, the global automotive industry, which has been in business for about 120 years, generated $1.7 trillion in revenue in 2010 – less than six times the smart energy industries, which are less than 40 years old. Growth rates in 2012 will range from 6.3% for biopower to 116% for stationary fuel cells to 766% for energy storage on the grid. That does not sound like an industry in crisis.
Martin proceeds to explain how the Wired article could get its facts and analysis so badly wrong. Among other problems: “Wired, of course, is the quintessential pinup magazine for Silicon Valley, and Eilperin at first glance confuses a bunch of disappointed venture capitalists for a wider industry downturn.”
Fortunately, as Martin points out, the Wired article does ultimately “[shed] the narrow, Silicon Valley-centric view” late in the article, with the definitive statement, “clean tech is far from dead.” Of course, as in any industry, particularly a young, rapidly growing one like cleantech, some companies will succeed, while others will fail. As Eilperin correctly points out, “Certain companies and technologies will emerge from the ruins not only to survive but to thrive, just like they did after the bursting of the Internet bubble.”
That’s the way it has always worked in a capitalist system – “creative destruction” is one popular term for it – and probably always will. The only question is which specific companies and technologies will thrive and which will not. Cleantech as a whole, however, appears destined to continue booming, as the world moves inexorably towards what Al Gore calls “sustainable capitalism.” And that, in turn, is something we can all look forward to watching unfold.