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In a Not-So-Rosy Outlook for Green, Energy Still Wins

BOSTON (March 10, 2009) -- None too surprisingly, the business and financial communities generally foresee a continued slump in capital investment for most segments of green technology—although the energy sector may do relatively well. That seemed to be the message emerging from a survey of more than 300 venture capitalists, executives, entrepreneurs and bankers conducted over the past two months by KPMG, reported here last night at the GoingGreen East meeting.

(Scientific American is a partner with the AlwaysOn network in presenting the meeting, which is the first East Coast edition of an event held twice before in California.)

According to Ed Sullivan, a partner at KPMG, 56 percent of those surveyed believed that VC capital investment in 2009 would be lower than in 2008. Furthermore, 59 percent expected that the ongoing global credit crisis would lead to a decrease in investment in green technologies.

However, when asked which greentech sectors would probably receive the most capitalization over the next two years, those surveyed indicated that they expected more than two-thirds of investment to be about evenly split between renewable fuels and technologies for energy storage and improved efficiency.

Some winners may also emerge on the basis of geography. Forty-seven percent of the respondents expected the western U.S. to receive the most funding for green technologies, which was a clear plurality. On the other hand, most other regions of the nations also received clear votes of confidence. Similarly, the business leaders expected that outside the U.S., Asia would be likely to attract the most capital for green tech development, but the remainder seemed fairly evenly distributed around other regions.

Ninety percent in the survey expected to see more federal funding for greentech initiatives and 94% expected to see more public-private partnerships. (Given the recently passed stimulus package, those predictions are all but assured.) And 44 percent believed that wind or solar energy would be the predominant clean energy source in 20 years, although other clean-air technologies had their own strong followings, too. (And as Sullivan half-jokingly pointed out, 11 percent seemed to be holding out for some mysterious unnamed technology.)

Expectations for carbon trading were also clearly very mixed: 44 percent expected to see an increase in carbon trading, but an almost equally large group (42 percent) seemed to think it would stay about the same.

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