SOCAP Recaps Success on Clean Energy Investment

By Czarina Ara Lasco

Oct 18, 2016 06:00 AM EDT

In this year's conference a remarkably larger presence of cleantech investors and sponsors are present. As well as several panel discussions focusing on impact investing.

Featuring some major industry players, including Dawn Lippert of the Energy Excelerator, Charlie Finnie of EFW Partners, Deepa Lounsbury of California Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED), Geoff Eisenberg of Ecosystem Integrity Fund and Pete Shannon of Firelake Capital a panel entitled "Investment Success in Clean Energy" took place.

The Energy Excelerator is a mid to late stage cleantech incubator focusing on the Asia Pacific region directed by Dawn Lippert, indicated that some major signs that the cleantech revolution has firmly arrived. "20% of homes in Hawaii have some form of solar. Our biggest power plant in the middle of the day is this distributed solar," she said. "The challenge is not necessarily technology or adoption but integration and management," she added. Lippert said that he utility has virtually no insights into solar production.

Energy Excelerator is starting to focus on getting the technology voice into the policy side. "Policy will always lag technology," Lippert said. One example is Stem, an Energy Excelerator portfolio company and a leader in distributed energy storage, is leading an alliance pushing to have a storage conversation with the Hawaii legislature.

Firelake Capital's Peter Shannon said that in one of the previous iterations of the cleantech boom/bust investment cycles, everyone was chasing better mousetraps. "But now, with CleanTech 2.0 or 3.0 or whatever we're in, these improvements, combined with some of the rapid gains in sensors and smartphones, ubiquitous data and wifi, smart entrepreneurs are coupling these things and making gains that seem like they have a lot of staying power," he said.

Shannon specified that the secret of the change will be the integration of storage. "Solar, especially from the manufacturing side, is probably always going to have some element of boom and bust...there are some inherent feedback loops on the supply side that will confound profitability....There's additional instability on the demand side. The economics are irreversibly heading in a good direction (as the cost of solar continues to drop), but until then, if you can add storage to solar, it can really change the dynamics on the demand side substantially," he said.

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