About a decade ago, the smart people who funded the Internet turned their attention to the energy sector, rallying tech engineers to invent ways to get us off fossil fuels, devise powerful solar panels, clean cars, and futuristic batteries. The idea got a catchy name: “Cleantech.”
Silicon Valley got Washington excited about it. President Bush was an early supporter, but the federal purse strings truly loosened under President Obama. Hoping to create innovation and jobs, he committed north of a $100 billion in loans, grants and tax breaks to Cleantech. But instead of breakthroughs, the sector suffered a string of expensive tax-funded flops. Suddenly Cleantech was a dirty word. Here is a direct video link.
The issues are complex here. Yes energy companies may well be the best informed and equipped to develop new technologies, unfortunately they also tend to be status quo focused rather than trying to innovate clean, sustainable, world changing technologies. Those from the tech side therefore step forward to try but also lack experience and some expertise in the area. It also leaves them easy targets for criticism from energy insiders and naysayers who do not really want them to succeed in the first place, and outsiders who are not entrepreneurs and do not understand the challenges, experimental process, and the need to repeatedly fail in order to truly revolutionize. Failure is unfortunately a necessary part of the process. But we do need people who are willing to keep trying nonetheless.