Friday, May 8, 2009
Clean energy's "Valley of Death"
The so-called "Valley of Death" is a scary place. It's where so many promising clean energy technologies die because they can't attract the significant capital to move from pilot scale (the realm of the venture capital world) to full-scale operating projects (where banks will invest). Failing to bridge this gap has cost us serious progress on clean energy technologies like wind, solar, and geothermal, which in turn has stifled the creation of new green jobs.
Last week the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources discussed ways to bridge the Valley of Death. The Committee held a significant hearing that addressed a proposal to create a new federal agency to help finance higher-risk clean energy projects that will deploy breakthrough technologies. I testified last week and also last summer to the Committee in support of this idea. Google.org's RE<C initiative is focused on creating renewable electricity, at utility-scale, that is cheaper than coal. The only way to achieve this goal is to move technologies from small pilot projects to full-scale commercial plants.
I'm pleased to note that last Friday the Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Senator Bingaman, and the top Republican on the Committee, Senator Murkowski, introduced legislation to assist clean energy technologies in securing sufficient funding to cross the Valley of Death. The bill was also introduced in the House by Congressmen Inslee and Dingell. The legislation would initially provide $10 billion in federal funding, which would leverage many times that in private finance for renewable, efficiency, and other clean energy projects deploying breakthrough technologies. We're throwing our strong support behind this bill, and we'll continue to work with others in clean energy finance, technology, and policy to advance efforts to build sorely-needed clean energy projects.