the International Executives Resource Group (IERG) hosted a CleanTech Panel discussion on April 27th at Choate Hall & Stuart LLP. IERG is a general interest organization, accordingly the panel was targeted to a non-specialist audience. My interest was peaked by two panelists from GreatPoint Energy, a provider of 'clean coal' technology. As my use of quotes indicates, I am at best lukewarm about the role that coal has to play in CleanTech. I do try to be open minded, and was hoping to better understand the technological reasons for coal's place at the 'green' table. Here's what I got out of the panel:
- If there is a technological argument for coal gassification as a GHG reduction tool, the panelists did not make it. One of the few positives I will give coal is that MIT is engaging in a Carbon Sequestration intitiative, and the default position is that MIT research initiatives are technically sound.
- The panelists observed that especially in this (economic) climate, it is hard to get funding for billion dollar mega-projects. Overall, the panel was receptive to the idea of these efforts being US government sponored. The least public sector friendly individuals both on the panel and in the audience at a minimum conceeded that the Europeans, Chinese and Indian governments will almost certainly fund these mega projects. The chances of US industry and US jobs coming out of these non-US efforts are pretty low.
- There was significant discussion about the state of stimulus funding. The consensus was that a number of 'Cleantech' sectors have been identified as recipients of stimulus money, but that no one was sure what the next step was, as well as which of the huge array of federal programs was going to be the ideal stimulus delivery vehicle. In this light, news about the Miami Smart Grid initiative takes on greater interest. I've read a number of articles on this. All refer to 'expectation of stimulus money' but no one explains beyond that statement. Do the players (all large fortune 500's) know something the rest of us don't? Can they afford to take a chance that the stimulus money either will not come or will come late?