Tesla bids for Solar City
as Nuclear Plants close

Clean Energy Trust’s monthly cleantech roundup recaps the most relevant information on the cleantech sector, from policy changes to technology updates and investment news. It’s all things clean energy, finance, policy, and technology.

Tesla is offering to buy Solar City. Nuclear Plants are closing all around the country. And the federal government is building out programs to support cleantech innovation. It was a busy June

Technology

Tesla has been leading headlines and illustrating the growth of electric cars. And with electric cars come a need for more energy-dense and reliable batteries. Some battery scientists are hoping that their innovations with silicon will help drive innovation that would enable this transition. In fact, CET Portfolio company SiNode Systems, an electric car battery startup, is getting attention from the Big Three auto manufacturers. “The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium—a collaborative effort by General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles—awarded $4 million to SiNode” to develop new battery components for electric cars.

For years, people have predicted the onset of the smart home. Take for example this headline from August 2003: “A Brilliant Future for the Smart Home”. But 13 years later we are still asking: Where is the smart home? and why hasn’t it materialized yet? It is an interesting challenge in matching technology with consumer demand and illustrates that developing technologies are not the only issues facing cleantech.

Investment and Entrepreneurship

Shedd Aquarium using batteries to cut energy usage. It is part of a 2012 plan to cut energy usage in half by 2020. It is a great example of a rising trend of large energy players taking on themselves to use cleantech to reduce their footprint and their bottom lines.

In fact, Caterpillar is making a big solar push. These solar microgrids are potentially a huge untapped market as more and more customers are looking for alternatives to the grid.

GE Ventures invests in Tesla competitor Sonnen. While Tesla is most known for their electric cars, their battery storage business has started to boom. Sonnen is a German energy storage company hoping to use this investment to expand in the European and American storage markets.

Potentially the biggest story from June was Tesla’s bid to acquire Solar City. The bid has created a lot of controversy and many people are weighing in on the merits of the potential deal. Some point to powerful future synergy between the two companies as to why it could make sense. Bloomberg breaks it down by the numbers and points out the incredible links between the two boards, both financial and familial.

On June 23rd, the Cleantech University Prize Winners announced. NovoMoto, a recent CET Portfolio company, placed 3rd. Launched in 2015, Cleantech UP supports student entrepreneurs nationwide by funding eight regional competitions, primarily hosted by universities. Teams compete for a minimum of $50,000 in funding and services to further support the commercialization of their technologies.  

Cleantech Innovation Bridge, connecting cleantech startups with larger corporations. Here are the 18 featured startups and what both the corporations and startups hope to achieve

Policy

Chicago Bronzeville neighborhood to be the site of a microgrid project. As mentioned above, the market for microgrids is growing. Some utilities are seeing them as ways of transforming their business models. At the same time, this growing market also raises new policy questions about who should pay for and own these assets.

With high costs, worries about waste, and growing the strength of distributed resources, nuclear power is in trouble. In California, Diablo Canyon nuclear plant is set to close leading to debate over the effects of the shutdown. Some are arguing that closing the plant will save money and those savings will lead to a more flexible grid and more spending on carbon-free renewables. Critics of the closing ask: Are we sure this is a good thing? They point out that nuclear power is often the largest source of carbon-free electricity and that shutting down the plant will at best be neutral from a carbon emissions perspective and at worst create massive setbacks as the baseload power is taken up by fossil fuel plants. In Illinois, Exelon is proposing to close 2 Nuclear Plants and the same debates rage on.

Federal policy is helping create new avenues for cleantech development. The White House announced federal and private sector actions on scaling Renewable energy and storage with smart markets. This included CET’s new program Campus Cleantech Pilots.  In addition, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) greenlights the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) push to integrate distributed energy resources (DERs) into markets. Another important part is the Federal Financing Programs for Clean Energy that is a resource guide to U.S. government programs that support the development of clean energy projects in the U.S. and abroad.

Recommended Reading

Bill Gates on the growing Momentum for Clean Energy

However, others have said that Gates has been pushing for the wrong technologies or paths for innovation. They want to upgrade Bill Gates’ Climate Reading List

Energy Transitions are often slow, here’s why the clean energy transition might be faster

Community solar is booming, especially in MN. Read our breakdown of the technology here.

By Alex Foucault | July 1, 2016