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Clean Tech Investing Shifts, With Lower-Cost Ventures Gaining Favor

Publication Date: 
March 01, 2012
Source: 
CNBC
Author: 
Dinah Wisenberg Brin

Executive Director at the Center for Energy Policy and Finance Dan Reicher spoke with CNBC's Dinah Wisenberg Brin on the rising clean technology industry.

Standard cement manufacturing technology, using super-heated kilns, hasn’t changed much since the Romans mixed cement to pave roads 2,000 years ago.

Srinivas Kilambi, a self-described clean energy serial inventor, aims to change that. He says his new process, a potential “paradigm shift,” would need far less energy, a much smaller plant, and a shorter production time.

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“Cleantech is … a maturing industry. I think people are beginning to have worked through the early stages, figured out where the more attractive opportunities are and those less so, and meanwhile lots and lots of changes have occurred in the broader world,” says Dan Reicher, executive director of Stanford University’s Center for Energy Policy and Finance, and a faculty member of the university’s business and law schools.

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Many U.S. companies can’t get domestic backing for what they call the “valley of death” phase: between the VC-backed pilot plant and the fully commercialized facility. As a result, they are increasingly turning to China, says Reicher.

“There are clearly economic implications," he adds. "The wonderful fruits of our innovation in this country are increasingly being consumed in China, and that has implications for job creation here, for a whole host of things that are important to our economy and our security."

Stanford is developing a financing vehicle to address that valley, but Reicher says he couldn’t provide details yet.

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President Obama has requested $2.27 billion in his 2013 budget, versus $3.2 billion the previous year. Congress, however, has approved less than the president's requests for the last three fiscal years, notes Reicher.