Freerk Bisschop

A Clean Economy on the Rise?

After the unanticipated outcome of America’s elections, the climate for smart energy suddenly felt a bit ‘chilly’. But in spite of the president-elect making claims disavowing climate change, renewing the coal industry and breaking up the Paris agreement, many signs point towards more and faster deployment of a decentralized, decarbonized & digital energy system.  And why not?  A clean economy is good for business – not only is it better for everyone’s health but it creates new economic models, new jobs, and new businesses.

According to a recent economic analysis by the international consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the switch to renewables in Germany is saving money and creating jobs. The report finds that the German government’s 2015-2020 climate action plan and energy-efficiency measures will save about 149 billion euros.

At this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP22), 111 countries ratified the Paris Agreement and that number continues to rise.  4 countries, including the United States, presented plans to decarbonize their economies by 2050 and 47 of the world’s most vulnerable countries made a commitment to 100% renewable energy.

Renewable energy also has the support of the American people, including Trump supporters.

In a recent poll by Public Opinion Strategies, 75% of Trump voters polled support “action to accelerate the deployment and use of clean energy” including solar, wind, energy efficiency and community renewable projects.  Even major Trump supporter Peter Thiel has significant interests in solar and renewables and has been an outspoken promoter.  Politically, despite slogans to the contrary, the Republicans are in support of energy efficiency and renewable energy.

At the same time, coal is on the decline worldwide.  In the US alone, 46 coal plants are slated to shut down over the next 12 years with no plans to change course.  Today, there’s already more employment opportunities available in renewables than in coal and oil.  Trying to rebuild that business sector would be a both costly and time intensive endeavor.

In addition, analysis shows that solar power is more affordable now that it has ever been and a competitive power source in the majority of the US.    

And both big and small companies are taking advantage of the opportunity:

  • After the election, within one week, energy giant General Electric is putting more than one billion dollars in “digital energy” through acquisitions: BitStew & ServiceMax
  • Smart Energy financial service provider Mosaic raised $200M in April, $220M in August and $250M in early November and is aiming for $1B next year.  Mosaic provides loans to homeowners wanting to install rooftop solar panels, as well as helping those homeowners connect to solar dealers for installation.  Mosaic’s growth is currently 40% month over month.

Smart Energy is a great investment play no matter who’s in power.  Witness the launch this week of the $1B Breakthrough Energy Ventures fund by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and a group of high-profile investors including Virgin’s Richard Branson, Bridgewater Associate’s Ray Dalio, John Doerr from Kleiner Perkins, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures, Alibaba exec chairman Jack Ma, Facebook cofounder-turned-investor Dustin Moskovitz, and Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son.

Freerk Bisschop is the Program Director for Rockstart’s smart energy accelerator program.

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