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Green Is In - Emerging Opportunities In Energy And Cleantech

Anil Saigal

On October 13, 2007, Tufts University hosted "Green is In - A Workshop on Emerging Opportunities in Energy and Cleantech" under the auspices of TiE-Boston. More than 110 people attended the parallel workshops on following topics.

-  Cleaner transportation
-  Innovative business models targeting consumers
-  Clean technologies and social entrepreneurship
-  Energy storage devices
-  Opportunities in cleaning up fossil fuel sources
-  Bio-fuels

The workshops were facilitated by Brad Bradshaw, Massachusetts Hydrogen Coalition; Sudhir Nunes, Renewable Energy Trust; John Quealy, Canaccord Adams; Vivek Soni, Boston Cleantech Partners and Chris Reohr.  The results of the workshops, identifying the problems and areas of opportunities, were presented to the panel experts including David Pelly of Matrix Partners, Steve Walker, New England Woodpellet, Raj Melville and Parag Mehta.  The workshop was organized by Chris Reohr, Parag Mehta, Sudhir Nunes, and Ravi Shan. Jamshed Barucha, Provost, Tufts University, welcomed the attendees.

Everyone agreed that the key to sustainable product design is to develop an integrated system incorporating policy and financing, design/manufacturing, distribution and consumer. In addition there is a strong need for legitimate, authoritative and credible accounting systems. Four business models were proposed. These included Google Bus for Boston, Energy Doctor, Green Mortgage/Green Financing and Competitions and Community Contests. Some of the key benefits of Cleantech for residential consumers are saving money, emotional fulfillment, easy to adopt, reduce volatility of energy costs and maintain control/independence. However, some of the barriers preventing widespread adoption include capital costs, regulatory compliances and complex products. 

Energy storage devices need to be further developed keeping in mind the following requirements: cost effectiveness, enabling distributed generation, matching energy storage technology to applications, and education about storage technology. There are ample opportunities in cleaning up fossil fuel sources which can be broken down in pre-combustion, combustion and post-combustion phases. These include solvents to clean non-CO2 pollutants and increased heavy oil and used oil yield, low N0x and slag reducing catalysts, Hg capture, CO2 mitigation and E&P water recovery. Potential businesses include Hg removal, fly-ash recycling, mobile recycling of auto oil to sell to industrial boilers and plastics recycling. Finally, it is important to address the transportation area. People like cars. There are currently about 500 million cars in the world and in the future if the fraction of people in China and India owing cars is similar to that in the rest of the world, the total number of cars could triple to 1.5 billion. The only solution to handle this is to incentivize corporate leadership in sustainable transportation followed by investments in transportation innovation, incentivizing efficient vehicle operations and integrating carbon into decision making and labeling.

Opening keynote was delivered by Robin Chase, founder and former CEO of Zipcar and CEO of GoLoCo. Robin put in perspective the threat to global warming from transportation activities and proposed some very innovative business models that can address this problem with a degree of urgency. Robin also shared stories from her experiences from building Zipcar. She suggested that Peer to Peer networking can be leveraged to solve major energy and environmental problems.

Other highlight of the workshop was the closing keynote talk by Carl Yankowski, CEO, Ambient Devices; Former CEO, Palm Inc & Reebok; Former President, Sony Electronics which focused on ‘Could the social and economic system begin to collapse unless creatively disruptive and drastic changes are made very soon.’  Some of the key takeaways were:

- Lead in times of change
- If you want to understand something, try to change it
- It is not best that we should all think alike, it is a difference of opinions that make horse races
- Never treat your audience as customers, always as partner

“Further more, everyone lives by selling something. Therefore, always think of customers, never meet only exceed their expectations, think what can be not what was or what is and finally innovate, take risk and may be fail a few times,” said Yankowski. Finally, he talked about the Energy Orb, an Ambient product, which emphasizes benefits not features and the real-time cost of power, which will be the wave of the future.

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