Green Energy Finance: How to Escape the "Valley of Death"

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"The Valley of Death. . .is where good ideas "die" due to lack of funding."

Washington always seems to think up buzzwords to help explain a larger concept.

Only trouble is, before you know what they are. . .these words sound kind of weird.

Take this example from my experience last week, when I attended the American Council on Renewable Energy meeting.

Congressmen and D.C. insiders kept referring to the "Valley of Death" that was holding cleantech back. Fortunately, one of the speakers managed to define the phrase, so I figured I would pass it along to you.

The Valley of Death, in this case, is where good ideas "die" due to lack of funding.

In this economic environment, the millions of dollars in upstart costs are hard to come by and great projects are often abandoned because of a lack of credit. While it is difficult to find that funding, it is still out there for great cleantech projects.

Here are some of the places that are shelling out VC money to American companies:
  • Private VC: Exxon Mobil now has an entire branch of the company dedicated to developing clean technology. Expect it to invest over $660,000,000 in the next few years.

  • DOE: The Department of Energy is currently distributing 40 billion dollars of the stimulus package, which can fund hundreds of large-scale projects.

  • European Union: The EU has committed billions over the past few years to grant programs and loans, and continues to be a leader in installed capacity. The Europeans will continue to invest in cleantech on the national and super-national level.
Possible future source:
  • "Green Bank": A nonprofit government-owned bank that lowers the cost of financing large-scale green research, development and implementation. This would open up a credit market for green startups at about half the price of other loans.
The idea is that these new mechanisms will help the next big idea avoid the "Valley of Death" by providing low/no cost funding to get the project off the ground. And this isn't charity - successful projects may pay their investors back many times over.

-Kyle Haas

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