Monday, January 01, 2007

Alternative energy industry is heating up - East Bay Business Times:

East Bay Business Times - January 1, 2007

Alternative energy industry is heating up
California leads the country
East Bay Business Times - December 29, 2006
by Mavis Scanlon

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Energy will dominate the news again in 2007. With little being done at the federal level to combat climate change, state and local governments are acting to boost clean energy and reduce global warming emissions. California leads the country, having passed landmark legislation in 2006 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We've gotten to the point where clean energy has shifted from a movement to a market, and no small market at that," said Joel Makower, co-founder of clean technology research and consulting firm Clean Edge Inc.

New investments in the global renewable energy and technology industries increased 43 percent in 2006, to $70.9 billion, according to New Energy Finance. The London-based research firm estimates that total deal volume for the year, including merger and acquisition activity, set a record of more than $100 billion.

With a healthy number of clean energy companies in the process of going public, New Energy expects that momentum to continue into 2007. In the United States, venture capital investments in alternative energy are at an all-time high. In the Pacific Northwest, for example, there were 15 energy deals through the third quarter that raised a total of $209 million, compared with seven deals in 2005 that raised $80 million, according to Dow Jones/VentureOne.

That trend will continue, especially as a nascent industry springs up around compliance and greenhouse gas reduction measures.

Another trend is the "greening" of municipalities and businesses by reducing waste and turning to renewable energy such as solar power. Over 700 Bay Area businesses are green-certified, and Pamela Evans, coordinator of the Alameda County Green Business Program, said she is fielding about 30 serious requests a month from businesses interested in certification. Next year the program will reach out to businesses in under-represented eastern and southern Alameda County.

Silicon Valley, which is driving alternative energy innovation, is quickly becoming known as "Solar Valley," said Carl Guardino, president and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group, due to the growing number of solar businesses there.

In late December, Guardino's group launched a 12-point plan to encourage businesses to curb greenhouse gases and reduce energy usage, including the formation of a Solar Industry Center for Excellence that will study how to drive solar adoption.

"We're under no illusions that you can solve a global problem as one region," Guardino said. "But we're also firm believers that global solutions don't just happen. They're driven by committed individuals and communities (and) then emulated elsewhere."

As California tackles climate change, energy observers will be watching just how easy or difficult the state finds it to implement Assembly Bill 32, its new law mandating greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

"AB 32 has lit a fire under a lot of people and organizations to think more boldly than they had in the past," Makower said. Whether "intentions turn into actions is going to be one of the interesting stories to watch in 2007." | 925-598-1405

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