Notes from This Year's RETECH Expo

Green Chip Weekend Edition

Written by Brian Hicks
Posted February 6, 2010

Welcome to the Green Chip Review Weekend Edition — our insights from the week in everything alternative and cleantech, as well as links to our most-read Green Chip Review and sister publication articles.   

I spent part of this week at RETECH 2010, keeping up to date with global policy initiatives, cleantech capital flows, and gaining perspective on the short- and long-term scenarios for our industry.

There were facts and data aplenty, and as soon as I reread my notes and comb through the PowerPoints, I'll be passing the information along to you. But the short version is this...

The United States had better get its act together. We've still no federal renewable energy standard; no carbon pricing mechanism; no robust incentive or tariff plans to bring solar and wind to parity; no way to streamline big projects; and no 21st century grid to handle the new generation sources that we're behind in deploying.


Meanwhile... China emerged last year as the number one wind market in the world, nearly doubling their capacity with 13 gigawatts installed. They're spending $12 million an hour ensuring not only that they win the cleantech arms race... but that they're in a position to export that technology around the globe.

China's financial commitment to cleantech is fully 3% of their GDP. The funds that have been allocated here in the States work out to about 0.5% of ours.

During a session at the conference, Hunter Jiang, president of GCL Solar Energy, didn't mince words about his country's position. After ruminating on China's laggard position throughout modern history's industrial revolutions and commenting on how automobiles and computers were cradled elsewhere, he said, "Today we are the leader."

Next year his company, GCL Solar Energy, will produce 21,000 metric tons of polysilicon. Their wafer capacity will be 2 gigawatts.

Elsewhere this week...

Brazil's Cosan (NSYE: CZZ) — GCI stock pick and world's largest ethanol and sugar processor — agreed to merge its ethanol and fuel distribution businesses with Shell in a $12 billion deal.

The European Union decided this week to hold a technology competition for capture and sequestration (CCS). The prize is nearly $6 billion, and will be taken from the bloc's carbon market.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, the International Monetary Fund said it's working on plans for an international "green fund" to help developing countries deal with climate change. IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said it "could climb to $100 billion a year."

In the U.S., our wake up call continued...

The International Energy Agency warned this week that we can't meet our emissions goals unless we put a price on carbon (Remember, the EU is handing out $6 billion prizes from their scheme.).

According to executive director Nobuo Tanaka: "To really achieve these (emission) targets, the U.S. certainly has to introduce carbon prices either by cap-and-trade or carbon tax. The Senate must pass this comprehensive energy and climate bill otherwise it cannot design a cap and trade system."

And while the president's budget calls for a "comprehensive market-based policy" to fight climate change, it dropped any projected revenues from such a scheme. Last year, Obama forecast revenues of $646 billion in the years 2012-2019 from an emissions trading program.

That's pretty much the last nail in the cap-and-trade coffin.

We also learned that cellulosic ethanol makers won't come close to meeting their 100 million gallon Congressional output target this year. Instead, the target will be more than 90% less at just 6.5 million gallons.

Yet, I mentioned to find a few bright spots...

The Obama budget asked Congress for a second time to end nearly $40 billion in subsidies for the oil and gas industries and to direct those funds to foster the clean energy economy.

And a report by the RES-Alliance for Jobs found that a federal RES of 25% by 2025 will create three times more jobs than other measures currently being debated by Congress. With unemployment hovering at 10%, Washington is all about jobs these days.

If energy security and reduced emissions won't get Congress to act... maybe a few million green jobs will.

Expect full coverage of the conference next week. You can catch up on the rest of this week's coverage below...

Call it like you see it,

Nick Hodge


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