September 24th marked our 2nd ever Cleantech Podcasters Roundtable, and it was full of great insights from our seven guests. In case you missed it, here are our "B3Ps," or Big Three Points we took away from the conversation. And a bonus: each podcaster shares their dream interview + favorite episode of his/her show.
#1 - Solar will continue to be a big trend in the U.S. - on both a small community scale and country-wide.
Q: What are the biggest cleantech trends that you see emerging in the fall?
Pyper: I recently came across Energiesprong, out of the Netherlands. It's a retrofit program to make homes net zero energy. They generate a total amount of their energy required for their heating, hot water and electrical, all within the home itself. So this is a new trend on the radar, and we'll see if it has any legs here in North America, but I thought that was an exciting one to see come on the scene, and just innovations around the home in general are a space to watch, I think.
Montague: We have realized that the United States is going to install one terawatt of solar by 2035, and then we're going to go to three terawatts by 2050. So if you're not aware of what's going on in the solar PV industry you need to sit up and listen hard, because this is a cash cow for our country and for the safety and future of society. We're looking at going 45% solar on the grid by 2050.
Powers: I think we can't overlook the challenges of the supply chain. Especially from this summer to fall, there is a huge constraint on projects. Things like our pricing is going to back up because of things like EPC pricing and panel pricing. And if things like the direct pay pass in Congress, which are super exciting and game-changing for us, if we have to have domestic content in there, where is that coming from? Or how do we get our supply chain ramped back up here at home to meet the demand that's out there? Because the demand is there, we just have to make sure the supply is ready.
Burgquist: I think consumers are going to be looking deeper as they want completely no reliance on the grid of whole home backup, and potentially off-grid resources. I think more and more technology is going to come up there.
#2 - The renewable transition is likely to be inevitable - but cleantech is an industry disruptor, which means we have to over-invest in public case-making if we want it to happen quickly.
Q: Is the shift to renewables baked in or is it still to be determined?
Powers: I think it's really important… to be putting money into [our industry groups], we need to be investing in candidates. We need to be playing in those conversations if we want to get the foundation that we need to continue to scale. And right now we're just not doing a good enough job of it.
Nussey: The underlying economics of solar, and soon batteries, are just so compelling that they're irresistible. It started as a green movement and my hat is off to all the folks who started it 10, 15, 20 years ago to save the planet. But today it's just simple business, which is what my book Freeing Energy is about.
I was having a meal the other day with an elected official who's very focused on electricity in the southeast. And he was very interested in clean energy but he said the utilities are just so much more well-organized than the folks who want distributed generation and solar. They just seem to have VPs who are focused on this and they come with agendas and information and research. And I wanted to put my hands in the air and say, but they're fighting an industry that's just beginning, that has very little money, the profits don't exist, they're certainly not guaranteed as the utilities' enjoy. And so this is David versus Goliath in many ways.
#3: The podcasters see a variety of ‘hidden’ trends and potential risks, from neglecting crypto to large investors who don’t understand the intricacies of the bigger picture in cleantech.
Q: What is the one trend that you're spotting that you don't think anybody else is seeing coming?
Porter: How about the hidden trend that I want to see, which is space-based solar. I think we need some big thinking. I think we need some grand ideas.
Johnson: The words transactive energy have somehow fallen off the map, even in an era that has never existed before this, where blockchain has legitimately changed the way finance is working. It has legitimately changed the way smart contracts are happening. I think that it's going to happen in choice markets in the U.S. faster than anybody believes is capable of happening.
Powers: The one trend I'm seeing a lot right now in the market that I think is actually scaring me a little bit is a lot of stupid money coming into the market. So there's a lot of money bidding really big on projects but then they can't execute. And what that's doing is it's getting the hope of developers and SF developers to think that's what the value of their projects are. But then those folks, again going back to things like not understanding what net metering is, it's going to crush the ability to close those projects. So smart money is really important right now to get these things done.
Montague: There's a bill inside that bill called the coal to solar transition and we are literally going to shutter about 10 coal-fired burning power plants in Illinois and convert them to solar farms and battery farms. And that is wonderful, because there's already huge infrastructure there, ginormous substations and wires and we're going to clean the grid and shut those babies down.
BONUS: What has been your favorite or most impactful episode?
Q: If you could get anybody in the world on your show, who would it be?
Porter: Plug Power up in Alabama, New York.
Burgquist: In my home state is Illinois, recently, Governor Pritzker passed a climate and equitable jobs act which put the state on course for 100% renewables by 2050….[and] I want to be talking with the lobbyists and how they're talking these bills from just letters on a page into an actual law.
Johnson: John Carrington, who was CEO of First Solar and is now the CEO of STEM.
Powers: I really love Jennifer Granholm and her role right now, driving a department of energy going forward, not as a scientist but as a governor who focuses on jobs and manufacturing.
Pyper: I'd want to have Mark Carney on. He's the former Governor of the Bank of England, he's a UN climate envoy, he's actually the Head of Transition Investing at Brookfield Asset Managers now. He would, I think, have the frontline view on how exactly we are going to mobilize the 50 trillion, 100 trillion, whatever the latest assessment is, what we need to move in capital to accelerate the energy transition.
Montague: I want to have Henrik Stiesdal on my show. He's a Danish inventor of the modern wind turbine. Literally, the modern wind turbine that we are all seeing across the country and now going into deep water across the world.