Startup companies are developing a wide range of new — and sometimes
exotic — sustainable-energy technologies to help countries move away from
their dependence on dwindling and greenhouse-gas producing fossil fuels.
In this special report from the 2011 Wharton Global Alumni Forum in San
Francisco, Knowledge at Wharton surveys the role and limitations of venture
capital in contributing to this transformation.
Reports that venture capital investment in alternative fuels is slowing, edged out by trendy fields like social networking, appear to be premature. Considerable enthusiasm for clean fuels and related products still exists, according to speakers at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in San Francisco. The speakers were part of a panel addressing the question, "Can Venture Capital Really Influence Environmental Sustainability?" Their positive outlook is borne out by statistics.
Investors are increasingly turning to large-scale projects as the renewable energy market matures. Wind and solar projects are now frequently measured in utility-scale megawatts, not kilowatts, and require lengthy time-lines and large budgets to complete. The main source of funding for such projects thus comes from banks, private equity funds, utilities and governments, noted Bernard David, a speaker at the recent Wharton Alumni Forum in San Francisco.
Venture capital can jump-start sustainable-energy technologies and projects, but it will take far more financial muscle to bring them to fruition. That was a key message of panelists who discussed the question, “Can Venture Capital Really Influence Environmental Sustainability?” at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in San Francisco.