Clean Technology

Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050

As part my introduction to the NDN world, and in anticipation of our Friday event, Simon tasked me with reading Joel Kotkin's The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050.  You can imagine my excitement.  I mean, what's sexier than demography?  And yet Kotkin has a knack for making complex and data-heavy concepts accessible and - don't mock me - exciting. 

Kotkin begins with an introduction to America's current and forthcoming demographic shifts (in diversity of age, ethnicity, race and country of origin) and then delves into an unapologetically optimistic analysis of how those shifts -particularly America's youthfulness - will transform our shared future and allow America to maintain its place as a world leader.  On a local level, Kotkin explores migration within America, and examines how suburbs and city-centers will change to accommodate such growth, as well as the green technology critical to sustaining a population that needs to learn to do more with less.  That last bit might sound daunting, but here's Kotkin's main point, offered like a reassuring parent or partner:  we'll do what we need to do, as we've always done, and we'll be great.  We should be aware of the possible pitfalls, but we shouldn't worry.  In fact, we should step back and marvel at America's unlimited potential. 

Of particular note is how Kotkin's views defy the panic and paranoia of those who suggest that America grows at its own peril.  Kotkin views our growth and corresponding diversity as an asset that will "drive our economic resilience." In this way, The Next Hundred Million is the ultimate antidote to the far Right's assertion that Latinos and immigrants are changing America for the worse. 

If Kotkin's book is as spot-on as it seems, then I have seen a snapshot of the future, and I gotta say:  it looks pretty good.

Three Interesting NDN Events This Week - Angelides, Clean Tech, America in 2050

Got an action packed line up this week for those either able to make it to lunch in our offices, or watch on-line.  Tomorrow we start with the Chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, Phil Angelides, who will be talking about the necessity of understanding where we have been to help inform the decisions about how to best move forward.

Next up on Thursday is the unveiling of a major new paper by our Green Project Director, Michael Moynihan, proposing a new way to help unlock the transformative power of the clean tech and renewable energy revolution.  Michael has been working on this paper for close to a year now, and if these are areas of interest, you won't want to miss it. 

Finally, on Friday, an old friend, Joel Kotkin, returns to NDN with one of the first public events discussing his compelling new book, The Next 100 Million: America in 2050

So, a full week.  To RSVP or to get more information click here.   And look forward to seeing you at one of these wonderful events.

Clean Energy Initiative

NDN’s Clean Energy Initiative centers on transforming discussions about 20th century energy policy into a new framework where energy policy is deeply integrated with economic policy and America’s 21st century challenges.  
Our Electricity 2.0 Program focuses on the issues surrounding the modernization of the electric grid structure for the 21st Century, including the need to replace, renovate and expand our infrastructure with an equal goal to address the issue of renewable energies, a more open energy network, greater consumer choice and the development of a new business model for the  21st Century.



Department of Defense and Next Generation Energy Technology  On July 25 we hosted a panel discussion on the incredible impact of the Military’s investment in clean energy.  Jon Powers, Federal Executive for White House office of Climate Energy Quality was joined by Dr. Holmes Hummel of Department of Energy, Dr. Jeff Marqusee of Department of Defense and Jeff Weiss, of Distributed Sun, LLC.



Heather Zichal On June 25, we hosted Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Heather Zichal, who spoke on the successes of the Obama administration's All of the Above energy policy and what the President has accomplished with this comprehensive national energy plan.



Ken SalazarKen Salazar, On April 25, we hosted United States Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who outlined the Administration's upcoming energy strategy at a luncheon at NDN. The Obama Administration, and the DOI have made remarkable progress through their 'all-of-the-above' approach to energy over the last three years.


The Role of Consumers in Shaping Energy Use - On April 6 we hosted a panel titled "The Critical Role of Consumers in Shaping The Future of Energy Use." The event, which was co-hosted with Opower, spotlighted the panel examined the role that customers can and should play in driving energy policy and proactively managing their home energy.


Solar Tariff Panel - On March 16 NDN's Clean Energy Initiative hosted a panel titled "Solar Tariffs:  Smart Policy or Protectionism?" Leading experts from the field joined us to discuss the issues involved with China, international trade, the labor market and solar technology. This panel was the seventh in our ongoing "Clean Energy Solution Series".relationship between consumer energy use and new technologies for over

Gina McCarthy

Gina McCarthy, On January 20, Ms. McCarthy, Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation for the Environmental Protection Agency, spoke to our 6th Clean Energy Solution Series on the impact of the newly released EPA national standards for mercury and other air toxins which will ultimately prevent 90% of mercury, 88% of natural gas emissions, and 41% of sulpher dioxins. 


Progress and Promise of the Electric Vehicle - On December 6, 2011 the fifth of our Clean Energy Solution Series feataured a panel of industry thought leaders for a discussion on the future of the Electric Vehicle.  This panel highlighted the recent emergence of the electric vehicle in today’s economy and how innovations in clean energy have opened doors for growth and opportunities of the electric car. 


Paul Tonko (NY-12)

Congressman Paul Tonko (NY-12) -  On October 21, 2011 our New York Clean Energy Forum featured Congressman Tonko who made the case for distributed generation throughout our country.  He pointed out the attributes of off-grid energy both in terms of saving the consumer money but also in terms of long term energy efficiency.  Tonko says Smart Grid/Smart Energy projects should continue to be funded through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, as they will ultimately engage the consumer with their energy use and resulting energy efficiency.  


Jack Hidary - On October 4, 2011, Jack Hidary, the well known energy Jack Hidaryentreprenaur spoke to our New York Clean Energy Forum on 'The Gamechanger:  China’s Unstoppable Clean Energy Exports'. Combining his considerable expertise in finance, science, technology, Jack's speech  focused on China's  master business plan every five years.  That plan, coupled with the enormity of China’s population, landmass, and financial resources, puts a footprint on every country and every major business in this global economy.  


Wind TurbineEconomics of Wind Energy and the Relevance of Tax Credits - On September 27, 2011, we held the fourth event in our Clean Energy Solution Series featuring a panel discussion on the the economic ramifications of wind energy presenting the case for investment of wind energy and outlined the realities of wind energy and other renewable energy in the political climate of the 112th Congress. 

FERC Panel


Transmission Reform:  What Does It Mean for Renewables? - On July 28, 2011, the third in our Clean Energy Solution Series featured a panel discussionon the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Rulemaking, Order 1000 and the potential of a modernized electric grid structure to provide nationwide consumers with renewable energy.


The Speed of Solar: A Review of the Tremendous Impact of Solar - On June 27, 2011, we held the second event in out "Clean Energy Solution Series", which spotlighted the success of rooftop solar energy, particularly for Sungevity Rooftop Energy. The rooftop solar industry, now no longer a cottage industry selling to the wealthy in the state of California, is now mainstream and viable in almost every state.


Wireless Technology:  New Technologies and the Electric Grid - On June 16, we held our first Clean Energy Solution Series on how wireless communications can create innovation opportunities for clean energy technologies and the smart grid.  We also released new national polling which shows public support for new approaches on energy outside the scope of the current debate.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Senator Jeff Bingaman - On January 31, 2011 Senator Bingaman, Chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee outlined his priorities for an energy agenda for the 112th Congress at a packed luncheon of over 250 people at the National Press Club. The Senator outlined four elements which he said should be at the heart of a comprehensive energy legislation to make the United States competitive in global energy markets.  To read more follow the links below:

Understanding the Transformative Potential of Microgrids and Distributed Power - On December 10, 2010, four industry pioneers; in localized generation and power management discussed the overwhelming success of cogeneration.  Cogeneration has revolutionized industrial power in the US, but also the huge, untapped potential of microgrids harnessing cogen and distributed power to modernize American electricity.  

Michael Moynihan to Present at the CITI Conference on Broadband Networks & Smart Grid

Michael Moynihan presents E 2.0 at Georgetown Energy and Cleantech Conference

Accelerating the Clean Energy Economy: Key Pathways, Policies, and Pitfalls 6/29/10: with Michael Moynihan, Dan Carol, Robert Shapiro, and Aimee Christensen NDN hosted a panel on the imperative of moving towards a clean energy economy and how this transition will take shape. The lively discussion explored the financial and regulatory incentives for clean energy development, as well as the necessary legislative actions to put these incentives into place.

NDN in New York - Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network 5/21/10: with Michael Moynihan Clean Energy Initiativei Director Michael Moynihan hosted a presentation in New York, examining the electricity industry and why the uptake of renewables has been so slow. He argued that the answer lies in the outdated and complex structure of Electricity 1.0, a closed, highly regulated network created a century ago, fundamentally incompatible with clean technology and renewable power. It's now time for America to upgrade to Electricity 2.0, an open, distributed network capable of fostering innovation and a clean technology revolution.

Congressman Edward Markey, Nick Sinai, Clem Palevich, Jigar Shah and Michael Moynihan to speak on Electricity 2.0: Envisioning the Future of Electricity 5/11/10: This important event focused on charting a course to the electricity future. In addition to protecting our climate and enhancing energy security, clean electricity has the potential to power a new wave of prosperity. It can serve as a platform for entrepreneurs and innovators to create new jobs and build new industries.


Electricity 2.0: Unlocking the Power of the Open Energy Network (OEN) 2/4/10: By Michael Moynihan In a major new policy paper, Clean Energy Initiative Director Michael Moynihan argues that America must upgrade to Electricity 2.0, an open, distributed network, to unlock the potential of clean technology and unleash a renewable revolution.

Solar Energy: The Case for Action 8/1/08: By Michael Moynihan While a variety of renewable fuels have different strengths, the subject of this paper, solar power -- ubiquitous, not tied to any nation or territory, clean and free once capital equipment to capture it has been installed -- holds special promise.

Investing in Our Common Future: U.S. Infrastructure 10/13/07: By Michael Moynihan Michael Moynihan looks at the current state of public investment in infrastructure and proposes a set of measures to restore our national political will and improve funding mechanisms to rebuild and advance U.S. infrastructure.

The NDN’s Clean Energy Initiative works to develop a legislative, regulatory and advocacy framework to address climate change, enhance energy security, transition to a low-carbon economy, and accelerate the development of clean technologies and infrastructure.

Denmark teams up with Project Better Place

In case you missed it, from The Register:

Denmark has become the second country to sign up to Shai Agassi's ambitious plan to wean the world off petrol-driven transportation, with the announcement of a deal between Agassi's Project Better Place and Danish utility Dong Energy. As with the Israeli deal announced in January, the latest venture will involve mass production of electric vehicles and the rollout of an extensive recharging and battery swap infrastructure.

Speaking to The Register this afternoon, Agassi said that the Israeli and Danish projects were broadly similar in size and timescale. Both will see the first vehicles on the road next year, with production ramping up into thousands in 2010, by which time the fueling infrastructure will be starting to emerge.

Also like Israel, the Danish government will be offering tax breaks on the vehicles. According to Agassi, the average price of a car in Denmark is $60,000 (about €38,000), while the tax break could price an electric car as low as $20,000 there. So the Project Better Place formula for success so far seems to be to get the attention of a power company to provide the network, and secure the tax breaks that will make electric vehicles a compelling proposition compared to petrol. This may not play so well in countries that don't already tax motor vehicles heavily, and/or that have a substantial auto manufacturing industry.

For more on Shai Agassi and Project Better Place, check out the video below of him speaking to NDN on March 12th in DC:

The Electric Car Reborn

At Wednesday's NDN conference, Project Better Place, CEO, Shai Agassi gave an inspiring talk about what promises to be the next chapter in the history of the electric car. Shai is an amazing speaker (see video) whose story is just as amazing. The second in command at SAP where he was widely viewed as the next CEO, he left to found a startup dedicated to the simple notion of ending the era of the gasoline car. His key insight that electrical infrastructure-not the car-is the key to bringing the electric car to market was conceived at Davos when he was asked for ideas on how to make the world a better place. Initially he went to Shimon Peres to discuss introducing a car in Israel whose short distances, high gas costs and interest in reducing dependence on oil make it a logical place to start. Peres challenged him to find an auto company to build the car and financing for his idea. When he secured Renault/Nissan to build the car, and $200 million in startup capital, the Israeli government responded with innovative legislation that is being downloaded by other legislatures for study faster than any bill in history. The legislation creates a sizeable differential in the tax on gas and non-gas cars for ten years. As usage shifts to electricity from gas, the tax on both will rise to preserve revenues but the differential will persist until, the Israeli government anticipates, gasoline cars disappear for good.

Part of what is so inspiring about Shai's idea is its social approach. Rather than view the car as a technical object, he looks at it as a driving contract. We expect a car to be ours, to have 5 seats (though we drive alone, we want to be prepared for a roadtrip with friends), to be fast and to be affordable. All these, the electric car can easily fulfill. But one last element has been the holdup. We also expect to fill our car up no more than about 50 times a year and for the fill up to take under five minutes. Recharging an empty battery takes longer. By focusing on the energy infrastructure rather than the car, Shai's inspiration is to use a plug-in architecture for daily charges making fillups easier as well as cheaper and a battery swapping technology to deal with those rare instances when someone needs to travel more than 130 miles.

The idea has been generating such buzz that already other car companies are looking to join up. This is what they call game changing.

Making Cleantech Happen

For those wanting to take a break from the campaign, here is a report on climate change and clean technology....

When it comes to addressing climate change how do we do more than play at the margins? That was the challenge posed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom at the latest Cleantech conference bringing together venture capitalists, hedge fund managers, clean tech entrepreneurs and others seeking market solutions to climate change. Noting that San Francisco has the largest fleet of plug in hybrids in the country-three, Newsom warned that despite all the promise of new clean technologies, rollout has barely begun A lot of low hanging fruit is out there, Newsom exhorted, but mayors, governors, corporations and people need to do reach out and pick it.

At the latest Cleantech, a conference that has gone from filling a room to an entire hotel in just three years, a host of visionaries and venture capitalists looking to cash in on what John Doerr says is a bigger opportunity than the Internet, exchanged the latest news on thin film solar technologies, biofuels, windmills and electric cars as oil economists predicted gas prices of over $4 per gallon this summer and higher prices ahead. With global oil production at close to full capacity and China and India just beginning their consumption trajectories, oil prices (as well as those of natural gas) seem almost certain to continue to climb. Falling prices of batteries, solar power and other renewables have made clean technologies the obvious solution to a looming energy and climate disaster. But first costs have to drop and acceptance has to increase.

Concentrating solar power through mirrors is one promising way to bring the cost of solar power down. So are thin films-the use of sun absorbing foil and other materials--in place of expensive silicon. To store intermittent wind, water and solar energy, better and cheaper storage, whether mechanical or chemical in the form of lithium ion batteries, will be critical. Finally, new business and pricing models will be important to the rollout of electric cars, home generation of electricity and other consumer methods of creating power.

While the technologies on display were impressive, they are not developing quickly enough to stop, for example, the melting of the summer Arctic ice cap. That's where policy will be critical. The easiest lift is efficiency. California consumes only one half the energy of the country as a whole at no loss to consumers. Speakers agreed on the need to "put a price on carbon" whether through a carbon tax or cap and trade system with several projecting that the United States would have a cap and trade system in place within 24 months. A "feed in" tariff such as that employed in Germany that pays consumers for producing power, predictable instead of on-and-off subsidies and decoupling of production from purchase markets were also mentioned as critical levers.

Blocking progress has been the stodgy nature power utilities-the largest customer for many products--that operate under a web of regulation. Absent in the industry so far has been the adrenaline of cost reduction through mass production-the driver of the consumer electronics, cell phone and Internet revolutions.

While no one has yet figured out a way to marry the speed of the Internet to clean technology, next month Vice President Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection will begin a multi million dollar ad campaign to raise awareness of the danger of climate change and hopefully accelerate action.

Indeed, other countries are arguably outpacing the United States. At the conference, Dr. Sultan Ahmed al Jaber of the UAE accepted an award for the UAE's $15 billion clean tech initiative, Masrad. If the US has one strength it is innovation and high tech companies are rushing to get into the game with Google, in particular, making a huge push to reduce its carbon footprint and offering $10 million to companies making a plug-in hybrid car. Google has installed one of the world's largest collections of solar panels the Googleplex.

I'll be back in California later in the month to meet with clean tech participants and NDN members to learn about your efforts and insights regarding this challenge. Or email me at

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