Advent Of A Sustainable Economy

There is a symbolic movement of our times that is promising a new lifestyle. A lifestyle that is not only transforming the vision of the future but changing the way we do business and invest. It is a possibility where the energy is produced and consumed sustainably, the environment is clean, and all of nature is in its healthy state. I know this could sound very idealistic when we are constantly bombarded by bad news. But if we look deeper the sustainable revolution has inspired and compelled governments and corporations to make goods and services such as clean power, extend green tax credits and encourage local recycling mandates that affect our day to day lives. This trend has also resulted in a new race to create better and more efficient cars and buildings which consume less energy and resources. New and advanced methods of growing food, and developing medications with organic ingredients are influencing nutrition and health care sectors as well. More humane procedures, like using fewer chemicals and minimizing animal testing’s has been advocated by consumers and activists alike. Even Local counties and schools are encouraging their constituents to recycle and conserve, this has resulted in many of us reusing shopping bags, using public transportation paying a premium for locally grown organic food and driving a fuel-efficient car.

But then we must also pay attention as to who are joining the movement to “LOOK” good and who are actually participating to” DO” good. Green washing is another technique where many may use to fit and conform into the new trend. Following the investments and the money chasing green projects is one way to keep abreast with what’s happening in the world of sustainability. As an entrepreneur or consumer pputting your money where your heart is another way to ensure the brightest idea will not get anywhere with the wrong funders. Don’t get intimidated by traditional start-ups and their glamorous image. You are not in the business of looking good, you’re in the business of doing good! And this is particularly what makes you stand out from the crowd. Invest in your purpose, put your heart and mind to nurture that big idea. Slowly, but surely, you can get the ball rolling further than you would have ever imagined.

Many VC monies may come with lots of strings attached and loss of creative liberty to steer businesses in the right direction hence not getting get stuck on the idea of VCs and cash in the bank but with key partnerships and  resources instead could be essential. People, skills, relationships that bring the right mix together to co-create things which at the end of the day may increase capacity to help move businesses further that otherwise would have been paid for. The right partners will embark on a journey with you because they believe in what you do and will give time, skills, networks and passion. That may be worth a whole lot than just cash!. If we must need to go the traditional route and go for the big money – VCs, grants etc – being picky about who we are pitching to may be critical. Research the VC’s or foundation’s history of giving, their pre-existing conditions and their relationship with their beneficiaries. Before pitching, try to meet with them informally and see if you click on the same things. Do you trust that person after you have left the meeting? Would they be an enjoyable teammate? Do you want to share more with them and value their advice, beyond just the business side of things? If your answer is yes, then go for it. Investments will come pouring.

In short align your values and stay true to yourself, your mission and your vision.  Never compromise and never lose sight of the purpose of your business, organizations or projects. Be authentic in everything you do!  Authenticity reinforces your purpose. Funding will only make it flourish. But if the Mission of sustainability is not there then there is nothing that can flourish.

Curated By Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers


The impossible just happened in Texas. The so-called spot price of electricity in Texas fell toward zero, hit zero, and then went negative for several hours.As the Lone Star State slumbered, power producers were paying the state’s electricity system to take electricity off their hands. At one point, the negative price was $8.52 per megawatt hour. Impossible, most economists would say. In any market — and especially in a state devoted to the free market, like Texas — makers won’t provide a product or service at a negative cost. Yet this could have happened only in Texas, which (not surprisingly) has carved out a unique approach to electricity.
Consider these three unique factors about Texas.
wind texasFirst, Texas is an electricity island. The state often behaves as if it were its own sovereign nation, and indeed it was an independent republic for nearly 10 years. Alone among the 48 continental states, Texas runs an electricity grid that does not connect with those that serve other states.Texas is an electricity island thus the grid is run by Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or Ercot. By contrast, most states are part of larger regional bodies like PJM (which covers 13 states in the Midwest and Middle Atlantic) or MISO, which oversees the grid in a big chunk of the middle of the country. Being an island has given Texas has greater control over its electricity market: Texas won’t suffer blackouts if there are problems in Oklahoma or Louisiana. But it also means electricity produced in the state has to be consumed in the state at the moment it is produced it can’t be shipped elsewhere, where others might need it.
WIND TEXAS 8Second, Texas has way more wind power than any other state. In 2014, wind accounted for 4.4% of electricity produced in the US. Texas, which has more installed wind capacity (15,635 megawatts) than any other state and is home to nearly 10,000 turbines, got 9% of its electricity from wind in 2014.But that understates the influence of wind. Demand for electricity varies a great deal over the course of the day it rises as people wake up, turn on the lights, and go to work; peaks in the late of afternoon; and then falls off sharply at night. The supply of wind can change a lot, too, depending on how much the wind is blowing. So in the middle of the night, if the wind is strong, wind power can dominate.On March 29 2015 at 2:12 a.m., for example, wind accounted for about 40% of the state’s electricity production. There’s another nice feature about wind. Unlike natural gas or coal, there is no fuel cost. Once a turbine is up and running, the wind is free.

Third, Texas has a unique market structure. It’s complicated, but Ercot has set up the grid in such a way that it acquires a large amount of power through continuous auctions. Every five minutes, power generators in the state electronically bid into Ercot’s real-time market, offering to provide chunks of energy at particular prices. Ercot then fills the open needs by selecting the bids that are cheapest and that make the most sense from a grid-management perspective i.e., the power is being fed into the grid at points where the distribution and transmission systems can handle it. Every 15 minutes, the bids settle at the highest price paid for electricity accepted in the round. So if 100 MW of electricity are needed, and some producers offer 60 MW at $50 per megawatt-hour, some offer 30 MW at $80 per megawatt-hour, and others offer 40 MW at $100 per megawatt-hour, all the bidders will receive the highest price of $100. (Note: The price Ercot pays is the wholesale generation charge.)
WIND TEXAS 4After midnight on Sunday, the combination of these three factors pushed the real-time price of electricity lower. Demand fell at 4 a.m., the amount of electricity needed in the state was about 45% lower than the evening peak. The wind was blowing consistently much later in the day Texas would establish a new instantaneous-wind-generation record. At 3 a.m., wind was supplying about 30% of the state’s electricity, as this daily wind-integration report shows. And because the state is an electricity island, all the power produced by the state’s wind farms could be sold only to Ercot, not grids elsewhere in the country.That gave wind-farm owners a great incentive to lower their prices. The data shows that the clearing price in the real-time market went from $17.40 per megawatt-hour for the interval ending 12:15 a.m., to zero for the interval ending 1:45 a.m. Then it went into negative territory and stayed at zero or less until about 8:15 a.m. For the interval that ended 5:45 a.m., the real-time price of electricity in Texas was minus $8.52 per megawatt-hour.
WIND TEXAS 9How could this be? I mean, even the most efficient producer couldn’t afford to provide electricity free or pay someone to take it.Well, there’s one more wrinkle. Typically, wind is bid at the lowest prices because you don’t need fuel, it doesn’t really cost that much money to keep wind turbines moving once they have been built. But wind operators have another advantage over generators that use coal or natural gas: A federal production tax credit of 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour that applies to every kilowatt of power produced.
And that means that even if wind operators give the power away or offer the system money to take it, they still receive a tax credit equal to $23 per megawatt-hour. Those tax credits have a monetary value either to the wind-farm owner or to a third party that might want to buy them. As a result, in periods of slack overall demand and high wind production, it makes all the economic sense in the world for wind-farm owners to offer to sell lots of power into the system at negative prices.
Only in Texas, folks. Only in Texas. Great policies and the leverage of new technology may be the reason Texas will always continue to host the present and future energy capital of the world ( Houston).


Contributed by Naved Jafry & Garson Silvers

The Argument For and Against Fences Vs Immigration

borders 4 borders 55As years go by from one political cycle to the next, immigrants seems to be that easy target for any attention/thrill seeking policy maker to place all blame on. Foreigners seem to be now blamed from everything under the sun. Things are so bad that even local terrorists groups now place fault on foreign terror groups as the root of all the troubles. Some say that walls and fences work and give its populace a strong sense of security but many academics and people on the ground suggest otherwise. Nevertheless there are always two or more sides to every story.

borders and fencesborder 7

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, 40 countries around the world have built fences against 64 of their neighbor. The majority have cited security concerns and the prevention of illegal migration as justifications. In the Middle East, the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria as well as the associated wave of refugees have prompted most countries to close borders. By the end of this year, when it completes its border-wall with Jordan, Israel will have surrounded itself entirely. In Asia, too, walls and fences have proliferated, generally designed to prevent illicit movement of people and goods rather than to seal disputed borders, though Kashmir remains a highly-militarised example. Soon the EU will have more physical barriers on its national borders than it did during the Cold War. However some proposals for border fences are less plausible than others. In 2013 Brazil announced a “virtual” wall, monitored by drones and satellites, around its entire, nearly 15,000 km- (9,000 mile-) long border. It began work on the Paraguayan and Bolivian sections this year, which are hot-spots for smuggling. But sceptics point out that much of Brazil’s border runs through rain forest that is impassable and hard to monitor. Even given easier terrain, high-tech border security often fails. The United States, which has several times fortified its border with Mexico, and Saudi Arabia, which has shuttered five of its borders since 2003, have struggled with proposals that were either too expensive or didn’t work (or both). For most countries, barbed-wire or electric fences, combined with ditches and buffer zones, are the reality. Thankfully, in contrast with the Cold War, transgressors of Europe’s new borders are no longer shot.

borders 91But history has proven time and again that when a society is governed with good rules, even diverse groups of individuals can come together and create amazing things, case in example the San Diego, Boston and Silicon Valley’s ability to make significant technological advances for the benefit of the world, while homogeneous societies such as Burundi and Somalia remain far behind. Imagine if America was never discovered and settled by immigrants. What the world would look like now?

borders 33borders

This opinion is contributed by Celso Pacheco & Naved Jafry


climate change 3Cities’ roles in fighting climate change have been showcased in recent years. In July, mayors from around the world met at the Vatican to discuss climate change. Last year, a report from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group found that, on their own, cities had the potential to cut 8 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In August, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote in Foreign Policy that cities are “key” to fighting climate change.
Many of the most important new initiatives of this century — from the smoking ban adopted in New York City to the bus rapid transit system pioneered in Bogotá have emerged from cities,” Bloomberg wrote. “Mayors are turning their city halls into policy labs, conducting experiments on a grand scale and implementing large-scale ideas to address problems, such as climate change, that often divide and paralyze national governments. Cities around the world have suffered severely from climate change and pollution, so it makes sense that some of them are starting to find new ways to tackle climate change. Dry weather and major air pollution has made Santiago, Chile home to some of the worst air in the world. Beijing, China also regularly suffers from dangerous air pollution while Superstorm Sandy hit New York City hard.
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Making cities greener could save a lot of, well, green, according to a new report. The report, published Tuesday by the New Climate Economy, found that if cities around the world implemented certain carbon-reducing strategies — including making buildings more efficient and investing in public transportation they could save a combined total of $17 trillion by 2050. The report looked at actions such as “aggressively” deploying high-efficiency lighting, “ambitiously” installing solar on buildings, increasing the fraction of methane captured from landfills, and expanding public transit. It found that, if all of the measures were implemented, cities would reduce their combined greenhouse gas emissions by 3.7 metric gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2030. That’s more, the report notes, than the annual emissions of India.
climate change 4Nick Godfrey, head of policy and urban development at the New Climate Economy, said in a statement that the amount of money saved by cities could be even higher. US$17 trillion in savings is actually a very conservative estimate, because it only looks at direct energy savings generated from investments which are a small proportion of the wider social, economic, and environmental benefit. The report recommends that cities make commitments to undertake these carbon-saving initiatives by 2020. On the national level, countries should implement support structures that incentivize city-wide efforts to reduce emissions. The international level, at least $500 million should be made available for cities to expand existing efforts to tackle climate change. The international community will be key in helping cities in developing nations find the capital they need to make these changes investing in improving the creditworthiness of these countries, for instance, can help them raise needed funds. That tactic has worked with cities in Uganda and Peru, the report points out. Overall there is now an increasing evidence that emissions can decrease while economies continue to grow. Hence major cities committed to fighting climate change are on a trajectory to be feasible with good economics.

Military Innovations That Can Change The Future

military innovation main pageWe may have a love hate relationship with the Military, but just over three decades ago mad science projects within the military literally transformed the world we live in today. When a group of researchers with military money set out to test the wacky idea of making computers talk to one another in a new way, using digital information packets that could be traded among multiple machines rather than telephonic, point-to-point circuit relays. The project, called ARPANET, went on to fundamentally change life on Earth under its more common name, the Internet. Currently $3 billion is split across 250 programs that may have national security implications but, like the Internet, much of what the military funds can be commercialized, spread and potentially change civilian life in big ways that its originators didn’t even conceive. Here are our top picks for what we called the future of everything.
Atomic GPS
military innovation quantum gpsThe Global Positioning System, or GPS, which DARPA had an important but limited role in developing, is a great tool but maintaining it as a satellite system is increasingly costly. A modern GPS satellite can run into the range of $223 million, which is one reason why the Air Force recently scaled back its procurement. DARPA doesn’t have an explicit program to replace GPS, but the DARPA-funded chip-scale combinatorial atomic navigation, or C-SCAN, and Quantum Assisted Sensing, or QuASAR, initiatives explore a field of research with big relevance here: the use of atomic physics for much better sensing. If you can measure or understand how the Earth’s magnetic field acceleration and position is effecting individual atoms (reduced in temperature), you can navigate without a satellite. In fact, you can achieve geo-location awareness that could be 1,000 times more accurate than any system currently in existence, say researchers. The British military is investing millions of pounds in a similar technology. Researchers associated with the project forecast that they will have a prototype ready within five years. The upshot for quantum navigation for any military is obvious. It arms them with better and more reliable situational awareness for soldiers and equipment and better flying for missiles. Perhaps, more importantly, a drone with a quantum compass wouldn’t require satellite navigation, which would make it much easier to fly and less hackable. The big benefit for everybody else? Future devices that understand where they are in relation to one another and their physical world won’t need to rely on an expensive satellite infrastructure to work. That means having more capable and cheaper devices with geo-location capability, with the potential to improve everything from real-time, location-based searches to self-driving cars and those anticipated pizza delivery drones. The most important civilian use for quantum GPS could be privacy. Your phone won’t have to get signals from space anymore to tell you where you are. It would know with atomic certainty. That could make your phone less hackable and, perhaps, allow you to keep more information out of the hands of your carrier and the NSA.
Terehertz Frequency Electronics and Meta-materials
military innovation meta technologyThe area of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwave, which we use for cell phones, and infrared, is the Terehertz range. Today, it’s a ghost town, but if scientists can figure out how to harness it, we could open up a vast frontier of devices of that don’t compete against others for spectrum access. That would be a strategic advantage in a time when more military devices use the same electromagnetic spectrum space. Research into THz electronics has applications in the construction of so-called meta-materials, which would lend themselves to use in cloaking for jets and equipment and even, perhaps, invisibility. On the civilian side, because THz radiation, unlike X-ray radiation, is non-invasive, metamaterial smart clothes made with small THz sensors would allow for far faster and more precise detection of chemical changes in the body, which could indicate changes in health states. There’s the future doctor in your pocket.
A Virus Shield for the Internet of Things
military innovation internet of thingsCISCO systems has forecast 50 billion interconnected devices will inhabit the world by the year 2020, or everything from appliances to streets, pipes and utilities through supervisory command and control systems. All of that physical and digital interconnection is now known as the Internet of Things. The High Assurance Cyber Military Systems program, or HACMS, which DARPA announced in 2012, is trying to patch the security vulnerabilities that could pervade the Internet of Things. The agency wants to make sure that military vehicles, medical equipment and, yes, even drones can’t be hacked into from the outside. In the future, some of the software tools that emerge from the HACMS program could be what keeps the civilian Internet of Things operating safely. This breakthrough won’t be as conspicuous as the Internet itself. But you will know its influence by what does not happen because of it – namely, a deadly industrial accident resulting from a catastrophic cyber-security breach. (See: Stuxnet.). Without better security, many experts believe the Internet of things will never reach its full potential. In a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project about the future of physical and digital interconnection, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who was instrumental in the success of ARPANET, said that in order for the Internet of things to really revolutionize the way we live it must be secure. Barriers to the Internet of Things include failure to achieve sufficient standardization and security. HACMS could provide the seeds for future security protocols, allowing the Internet of things to get off the ground.

Rapid Threat Assessment
military innovation rtpThe Rapid Threat Assessment, or RTA, program wants to speed up by orders of magnitude how quickly researchers can figure out how diseases or agents work to kill humans. Instead of months or years, DARPA wants to enable researchers to “within 30 days of exposure to a human cell, map the complete molecular mechanism through which a threat agent alters cellular processes, This would give researchers the framework with which to develop medical countermeasures and mitigate threats. How is that useful right now? In the short term, this is another research area notable primarily for what doesn’t happen after it hits, namely pandemics. It took years and a lot of money to figure out that H5N1 bird flu became much more contagious with the presence of an amino acid in a specific position. That’s what enabled it to live in mammalian lungs and, thus, potentially be spread by humans via coughing and sneezing. Knowing this secret earlier would have prevented a great deal of death. In the decades ahead, the biggest contribution of the program may be fundamental changes in future drug discovery. If successful, RTA could shift the cost-benefit trade space of using chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces, this could also apply to drug development to combat emerging diseases.
Overall the future points us in a direction where all of this power, and all of this hype, emerges from a source almost unfathomably small with major implications. The next of things in military innovation in a few short years could leapfrog current technologies from present day computations as humans evolved from jelly fishes.

This article is curated by Celso Pacheco & Naved Jafry

Why The Army Should Stay Strong

army strong top_10_active_duty_armiesAccording to the 2012 and 2014 defense plans the U.S. Army will no longer size its main combat forces with large-scale counterinsurgency and stabilization missions in mind. This is world view, we believe is a major conceptual mistake that may eventually decimate our Army and will cause increasing harm to our sacred founding principles with time if we buy into the idea. The active-duty Army is already below its Clinton-era size and only slightly more than half its Reagan-era size. Reductions to the Army Reserve and Army National Guard have been almost as steep. None need grow at this juncture, but the cuts should immediately stop. As of chart shown above, we already now rank below Pakistan and North Korea in numbers and with the leap frogging of technological advances our opponents may soon have the strength to make us irrelevant on any ideological or military battlefield.

This may seem to many as far fetched but if history has taught us anything it may be just truer than ever that an ounce of precaution could be far better than a pound of cure. To maintain counterinsurgency and stabilization capacity, as well as a robust deterrent against possible threats such as the NATO by the Russians, South Korea by North Koreans, the Muslim world by Political Islam, Southeast Asia by China and most importantly the elephant in the room, a possibility of a South Asian Nuclear War.strong army political instability

According to Michael E. O’Hanlon from Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, A nuclear confrontation would be devastating in South Asia, enormously disruptive to the world economy, and highly dangerous to the whole planet (particularly with the prospect of loose nukes afterwards). An Indo-Pakistani war remains a real possibility today. There have already been three or four, depending on whether one counts the Kargil crisis of 1999, and it is remarkable that there have not been more. If the nuclear weapons threshold were crossed in the future, a foreign military role could become much more plausible, particularly to reinforce a ceasefire. To date, Delhi in particular has eschewed any foreign role in diplomacy over Kashmir or related matters. But in the aftermath of the near or actual use of nuclear weapons, calculations could change dramatically such a world could be characterized by a far different political psychology than today’s. The path to war could begin, perhaps, with a more extremist leader coming to power in Pakistan. Imagine the dangers associated with a country of 200 million with the world’s fastest-growing nuclear arsenal, hatred of India and America, numerous extremist groups, and claims on land currently controlled by India. Such an extremist state could take South Asia to the brink of nuclear war by provoking conflict with India, perhaps through another Mumbai-like attack.

Why could nuclear weapons be employed, even after 70 years of non-use globally? Even if it was the provocateur, Pakistan could come to fear for its own survival in this type of scenario. Having aided a group like Lashkar-e-Taiba, with its extremist anti-Indian views, Pakistan would have given India ample grounds for retaliation. Even a limited Indian conventional counterattack, perhaps influenced by its so-called Cold Start military thinking, could quickly put Islamabad, Lahore, and other Pakistani cities at risk. In such a situation, Pakistan might well see military logic in the use of several nuclear weapons against Indian troops, facilities, or other tactical targets. It is not even out of the question that Pakistan could conduct some attacks over its own territory. If the weapons were detonated a kilometer or so up in the air, the effects of the explosions could be catastrophic to people and military equipment below, without creating much fallout due to dirt and rock upheaval that would later descend on populated areas downwind.Beyond their immediate military effects, such attacks would signal Islamabad’s willingness to escalate. Despite the huge risks, there would be few better ways of making a threat to attack Delhi credible than to cross the nuclear threshold in tactical attacks. Presumably, Pakistanis would have to assume the possibility of Indian attacks against Pakistani armed forces. But that might be a risk the country’s leadership would be willing to accept, if the alternative seemed to be defeat and forced surrender after a conventional battle. It’s not clear whether Indians would interpret such a finely graduated nuclear attack as a demonstration of restraint, particularly if any of the Pakistani attacks went off course and caused more damage than intended. Thus, the danger of inadvertent escalation in this kind of scenario could be quite real. It might not even take nuclear attacks by Pakistan to cause nuclear dangers.

A role for U.S. troops?
strong army US deployments scenerios
If such an Indo-Pakistani war with nuclear implications began and international negotiators became involved, it’s imaginable that an international force could be proposed to help stabilize the situation for a number of years. Kashmir might be administrated under a U.N. mandate and protected by a U.N.-legitimated force, with an election eventually determining the region’s future political status. The fact that nuclear conflict might have occurred by this point would have raised the stakes enormously for both sides, making it hard for any leader to accept a simple ceasefire absent a credible political process. The mission could last a decade or more, time enough to allow for a calming of tensions, for political transitions in both countries, and for Pakistan to clamp down on terrorist groups.
India in particular would be adamantly against this idea today. But things could change fundamentally if such a settlement, and such a force, seemed the only way to reverse the momentum toward all-out nuclear war in South Asia. American forces would likely need to play a key role, as others might not have the capacity or the political confidence to handle the mission. It is estimated that an international force numbering into the low hundreds of thousands of troops could be needed for an extended period.
Is such a scenario likely? Hardly. Is it crazy or implausible? we don’t think so. Could we really sit it out if it happened? we fear not. Can we design the future American Army without factoring in such possibilities? In fact, it would be a big mistake. As we consider questions from the imminence of possible sequestration this fall on the proper size, character, and cost of the U.S. military under our next president, such considerations must factor clearly in our minds. We may not have an interest in ugly stabilization missions, but they may have an interest in us. In fact we argue that In many cases, the needed response may entail not just trainers and drones, but brigades and divisions.

This opinion piece is contributed by Celso Pacheco Jr. and Naved Jafry

army strong front


solar 2Solar perovskite cells, patterned with gold electrodes, await tests that
measure their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity. (Plamen Petkov)

In the 1950s vertically integrated giants such as IBM and AT&T evolved its telecommunication and semiconductor businesses by having their global network of suppliers compete for its business at every step of the value chain including and not limited to redesigning components and dramatically improve the performance and cost of electronics. But if you look at how clustered sustainable technologies supply chains in China work, it demonstrates that it will only reinforce the industry’s focus on today’s technology, rather than allow competition to drive tomorrow’s advances.

For instances the next generation technologies of solar and LED are developed at a slower pace in laboratories all over instead of today’s promising technologies such as the solar perovskites that could beat silicon on efficiencies and costs many folds if ramped up to scale production. But the more the solar/LED industry concentrates and calcifies in China, the harder such a disruption will happen. By subsidizing its domestic manufacturers, China also subsidizes clean energy deployment around the world. But this sort of argument by pro-deployment activists suggests that China’s dominance in solar/LED manufacturing is a boon to the world. In the near term, they may be right as the solar deployment is booming around the world, fuelled by cheap Chinese panels. But in the long term, today’s silicon/LED technologies will not displace even a substantial fraction of fossil fuel energy. This near-term/long-term disparity stems from the economics of electricity grids as solar’s/LED’s value declines as its penetration on the grid increases.

solar ledTo look into this view a little deeper there are two reasons why dramatically superior technologies will likely not emerge if the solar/LED industry remains concentrated in China. Firstly, Chinese firms are more likely to pursue incremental process improvements and cost reduction e.g., optimizing factory layouts, strengthening supply chains rather than product innovation. Some might argue that this is a dated caricature of a newly dynamic Chinese innovation complex which benefits from lavish state-funded laboratories (cf. Chinese “State Key Labs”) and improved coordination among universities, research institutes, and corporations. Still, fundamental technology researchers in China are struggling to close the gap with Western counterparts, and most major manufacturers have displayed little interest in seriously funding alternative technologies. The second reason for pessimism is that if innovation flourishes only in a Chinese-dominated industry increases, vertical integration will eventually stifle disruptive change. For example China dominates not only the panel manufacturing business, but has consolidated the entire upstream supply chain within its borders, from polysilicon to solar cell production. Where the supply chain is not formally vertically integrated, it is de facto monolithic, simply by virtue of colocation in massive industrial centers like the Yangtze River Delta Economic Zone.

solarFrom 2006 to 2011, venture capitalists invested over $25 billion in clean technologies and lost over half their money needless to say, VC interest in new solar start-ups today is minimal. But there still appears to be a silver lining when large U.S. companies can play a crucial role in driving innovation in solar and sustainable technologies. Firms like Applied Materials and Dupont still achieve levels of quality that the Chinese have been unable to replicate (in solar cell production equipment and materials, respectively), giving the United States a toehold in the solar supply chain. Moreover, two large solar panel makers First Solar and Sunpower are American and employ more advanced technologies than their Chinese competitors. And SolarCity, a downstream residential solar installer, recently acquired an innovative solar technology company and will produce its own panels in Buffalo, New York. These American solar players are far more amenable than Chinese counterparts to exploring new technologies for commercialization, and they have the sector expertise, manufacturing prowess, and project pipeline to bring new solar technology to market where VCs failed. State incentives such as those that attracted SolarCity to New York, can support American companies to drive local economies. I would strongly recommend more federal research funding to be aimed at fostering partnerships between major American firms and cutting-edge research in universities and national research laboratories. Ideally we can look forward to a time when sustainable technologies such as solar is an industry waiting to be disrupted in the US and eventually worldwide.