The cleantech community is gathering in San Francisco this week. The theme of the Cleantech forum this year: "From data to impact: how technology will drive the cleantech economy?". California, and San Francisco in particular, has matured into a cleantech hub in the US but regulation uncertainties have slowed down the adoption of new technologies.
At the hotel Hyatt, over 600 business leaders and investors talked today about the opportunities ahead. I connected with a staff member of the Environmental Protection Agency after the tour of the city in the afternoon. It included a visit of the future site of the cleantech incubator sponsored by the city. He lauded the work to transform the hazardous site of Hunter's point into an industrial site that can create cleantech jobs. However he questioned the strategy "let's build it, tenants will come."
The Navy has been cleaning the former shipyard part of a plan to transfer the site to the city and rehabiltate the area with sustainable businesses and green residences. The city plans to complete phase 1 within 5 years, which encompasses the renovation of a warehouse to incubate cleantech companies. About sixty companies and several investment firms have shown their interest. The site might also be the host of the UN Global Compact program.
The cleantech awards ended the first day by acknoweledging exceptional achievements in three categories. ABB Inc. received the award in the corporation category. OPower received the cleantech in the best entrepreneur category for deploying their software solution to 2 million home users accross 45 utilities. The Opower representative noted that "the company is making small changes over a wide scale". He added that "our solution provides 2-3% savings improvement but has an impact equivalent to the third of the solar industry in the US".
The life achievement awardee, Art Rosenfeld, was also a proponent of making smart changes like switching roofs from black to white. The world-class scientist has monitored the evolution of energy efficiency and its impact on the economy over the last 20 years. Overall, California is doing better because it controls its electricity market, and the world is currently benefiting from the efficiencies drawn from Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
San Francisco is confirming its place as a cleantech hub, ideally located at the juncture of thought leadership on environmental protection in East Bay and the ICT sector in Silicon Valley. Foreign countries are taking notice. The French Embassy for example has staff covering the clean tech sector at its San Francisco consulate. Cleantech remains however a very wide subject. Wisconsin has a first-class water cluster and Boston is strong in innovation. "Big dollars" remain in Texas where the Oil Giants are spending research funds on longer-term solutions.