I had the opportunity last week to attend the Clean Tech Investor Summit in Palm Springs presented by Clean Edge. Ron Pernick and team put together a diverse agenda for attendees. Sessions covered everything from green building and carbon markets to “clean coal” and Wall Street’s take on clean tech.
The range of topics covered and companies represented illustrates the growing influence clean tech is having on businesses across industries. Thursday’s corporate keynotes brought together representatives from Wal-Mart, BP and Cisco. Each provided a different slant on going green either through internal initiatives or product development. Hearing perspective from an operations/business person, scientist and engineer showed how sustainable thinking is being incorporated into every level of an organization.
Matt Kistler, Wal-Mart’s senior vice president of sustainability, claims that it will spend more for products that are environmentally-friendly and last longer, but not necessarily at a higher cost. Wal-Mart’s goal is to one day use only renewable energy and create zero waste. Mark has been in a sustainability role for 90 days – likely not an uncommon level of experience in most companies that are starting green initiatives. The BP chief scientist comes from an academic background and Cisco’s green engineer recently joined the company from American Power Conversion Corporation. Diverse backgrounds and diverse approaches to green.
The keynote on “clean coal” from Greg Boyce, Chairman and CEO of Peabody Energy, also drew a lot of attention. The conference organizers were quite open-minded to invite a coal company to speak at a clean tech event and Boyce was equally brave to accept the invite. Whether or not you agree with the idea of “clean coal,” isn’t listening to companies with different propositions and participating in a “friendly” debate what clean tech is all about? Whether or not investors and consumers buy into the idea is another story.
Over the next 25 years, Greg says there will be a 75% increase in coal use. And a quarter of the world’s coal reserves. As the price of oil continues to rise, companies are bound to give clean coal a second look. Tech Review discusses a new porous material that can soak up 80 times their volume of carbon dioxide. The material could be used in coal gasification plants. The idea of clean coal has created a great deal of discussion in the industry. Questions that came up in the Q&A following Greg’s keynote included: should there be a national charge on coal to help companies move to clean coal? Why should there be a public subsidy? Why shouldn’t the coal industry pay? My thought: the sun as a resource is endless; let’s make sure the long-term solutions are a (BIG) part of this mix!
In the Bay Area alone, there are at least three or four more clean tech conferences taking place this month. Industry discussion and excitement around clean tech keeps moving.
— Barbara DeConto, Text 100 Clean Tech Practice