Research: Global cleantech back sliding

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Cleantech consulting firm Kachan & Co. has released research that it says will call into question some of cleantech's traditional leading indicators of health, predicts risks will develop within the solar and wind sectors.

Among the company's predictions:

The decline of cleantech venture capital: Gobal cleantech venture capital investment in 2013 will decline even further than it did in 2012. The previous highs before the financial crisis of 2007-2008 are long gone, according to the firm. Drivers include the departure of many venture investors because of disappointing returns, poor policy support worldwide, and a lag time in the pullback of equity and debt investment.

But there could be a bright side.

"Fewer VC cooks in the kitchen may impede innovation, but deep pocketed corporate capital should help clean technologies that are already de-risked reach meaningful levels of scale," said Dallas Kachan, managing partner, Kachan & Co.

The emergence of long-term risk for solar and wind: Margin erosion, allegations of corruption, and international trade impropriety are just a few of the challenges plaguing the wind and solar industries. Kachan believes that in 2013 poor progress in grid-scale power storage technology will also put downward pressure on solar and wind growth figures.

"Prices per kilowatt hour are falling, but the cost of flow batteries, molten salt, compressed air, pumped hydro, moving mass or other storage technology needs to be factored in to make intermittent clean energies reliable and available 24/7," said Kachan. "When also considering continued progress in cleaner baseload power from new, emerging nuclear technologies, natural gas and cleaner coal power, the growth rates for solar and wind appear at risk."

The increasing respect for clean coal technology: 2013 will be the year a new set of technologies will emerge aimed at capturing particulate and CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants and help the sector begin to shed its negative positioning, according to Kachan.

The barriers to capturing coal emissions have been cost and power plant output penalties, but encouraging new technologies are being identified.

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