January Top Ten Players in Green Energy: Nos 1-5
Green Energy Reporter’s ranking of the top ten players in green energy for the month of January is out! Taking the lead for the January ranking are British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband (#2 last month). These two are implementing bold green strategies whose impact will be felt well after they leave office, and based on recent polls, showing Conservative leader David Cameron well ahead of Brown, that could happen soon.
Our latest ranking also includes promising companies prepping for possible IPOs as well as on investors putting their money, where so far only a few have…. One such investor is Microsoft founder and Chairman Bill Gates, who last month announced he was spending $4.5 million on various geoengineering projects. This is a risky proposition but not a surprising one coming from someone who dropped out of Harvard to launch the startup that’s become Microsoft!
As we like to remind you, every time we publish out ranking, our top- ten list is based on the players’ influence over green energy policy and their ability to move the debate. Other factors that we take into account in making our monthly selection include industry and popular support for their positions, access to capital to fund innovation and the success of their ventures.
1: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown/Secretary of State for energy and Climate Change Ed Miliband
From small-scale to ginormous-scale, British politicians rolled out complex plans in the last month to put the country on track to meet 15 percent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. First, they announced a ?75 billion ($120 billion) offshore wind project – the so-called Round Three program administered by the independent Crown Estate – that will put thousands of turbines on the country’s seabed. Nine separate consortia won contracts to build the projects. The projects could support 70,000 jobs by 2020, according to Brown.
Then, just this week, Ed Miliband announced new feed-in tariffs for small-scale and home producers of renewable energy. Homeowners could be paid hundreds of pounds from electricity they generate, even if they use it themselves, Miliband said.
Of course, there are enormous challenges, from lack of manufacturing plants that could actually build these offshore turbines to limited offshore connections to the national electricity grid. There’s also the simple matter of getting citizens to buy into green energy. But these projects show ambition that is distinctly lacking elsewhere in the world.
2: Germany’s Governing Coalition
One thing is certain: Germany’s generous feed-in tariffs for solar energy are going to decrease sometimes soon. But will they go down by 15 percent? 25 percent? And will the cuts come on April 1? May 1?
The debate reflects splits among the members Germany’s governing coalition and within the dominant party, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen, a Christian Democrat, was pushing the 15 percent cuts for April 1 but backed off under pressure from his own party. He recently sought support from the junior coalition partner Free Democrats but was told that the cuts are too extreme.
Businesses have complained that the cuts are coming too fast and will hurt the industry and shed jobs. The uncertainty has prompted big investors like Gabelli & Co.’s SRI Green Fund to decrease their solar holdings.
The coalition government is starting to look a lot like the U.S. Senate in its ability to mangle good things.
3:The U.S. Wind Industry
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released its year-in-review data in January, and what a year it’s been for the U.S. wind industry. Entering 2009, in the midst of the global financial crisis, AWEA actually predicted a 50 percent decline in the construction of new wind farms. But then the $765 billion stimulus stepped in and helped turn the expected decline into a 40 percent surge. Backed by unprecedented stimulus monies through 2009, U.S. wind developers added 9,922 megawatts of new wind-generated electricity, bringing the country’s total wind power capacity to 35,000 megawatts.
4: Dalton McGuinty, premier of Ontario, Canada
It wasn’t the biggest deal of the month – that prize goes to the UK’s ?75 billion offshore wind project – but it may have been the boldest. On Jan. 21, McGuinty announced an agreement with Samsung C&T Corp. and Korea Electric Power Corp. to build a $7 billion, 2,500-megawatt wind and solar project.
But McGuinty’s grand plan goes beyond providing renewable energy to Ontarians. He hopes to turn the province into a hub of green energy manufacturing in North America and, to that end, Samsung will recruit other manufacturers into the region.
Critics have slammed McGuinty for negotiating with foreign companies in secret, guaranteeing 500 megawatts of limited transmission capacity to the project and not getting written assurances for the 16,000 jobs he has promised. But the deal is a win-win for McGuinty: if it succeeds, he’ll be the patron saint of Canada’s green energy industry. If it fails, he’ll be already long gone from office.
China has started lowering barriers to Western cleantech companies doing business within its borders, hoping to reap the benefits of their innovative technology. One example of this open door policy is the recent decision to scrap the requirement that 70 percent of wind turbines used in the country be made there.
Pasadena, Calif.-based eSolar’s deal to build a two gigawatt concentrated solar power (CSP) plant in China is another.
The deal, announced this month, is a partnership with China’s Penglai Electic to deploy utility-scale solar thermal power plants across the country over the next 10 years. This project, with construction slated to begin this year, will be the first large scale CSP project in the country.
The projects will use eSolar’s modular power tower technology which uses a field of flat mirrors called heliostats to focus solar energy on tower-mounted receivers where water turns to steam that is piped to a conventional steam power plant to generate electricity. The projects will be “hybridized” by being near biomass power plants — the combined power facilities should be able to generate electricity around the clock.
The Google-backed company has been rolling at a quick pace lately, picking up a new CEO and rapidly deploying its technology. If it is successful in China, the company could be poised for a bright future.