If you watch the news, read the articles about the goings on in the field of energy production, and listen to the pulse of the business worldwide, a couple of points energe worthy of note.
The energy business, especially producing energy, is a risky and capital intensive business. Entrepreneurs in the energy sector are for the most part relegated to distribution of engineered and manufactured items such as solar panels, solar water panels, windmills and other forms related to energy management or energy use improvement through accessories that help conserve energy.
The bottom line for the entire renewable energy industry is that it has not been good of late as tax credits and other incentives have expired. There are still installations, but the markets are showing signs of being self-limiting because of the need for highly regionalized offerings that take in to account the wind, solar availability, and temperatures. It is going to take a massive shift in several key industries before the market opportunity for entrepreneurs is sustainable both short and longer term.
Here are some market shift drivers to look for.
(1) Building highly energy efficient Hhomes – When the housing industry starts to design all new houses to be way more significantly energy efficient such that small businesses and enterpreneurs can add value by supplying goods or services during the building phase. For example solar panel and equipment suppliers, installers, energy management systems and more. The National Institute for Standards and Technology Zero Net Energy home is a great example [ http://www.nist.gov/el/building_environment/heattrans/mpnz.cfm ]. There are opportunities to develop home energy management consulting services and accessories that assist with managing the energy. Many enterpreneurs are developing Smart Grid add on products. Several of them are nearing market release related to the adoption of Smart Grid systems.
(2) Solar and wind practicality – Solar is by itself, and windmills too, are self-limiting as many wannabe entrepreneurs have found out. Adding on expensive equipment after the fact to aging homes or businesses does not have the financial return on investment that is attracting to consumers and business owners. Consult the National Renewal Energy Laboratory [ http://www.nrel.gov/ ] for specifics on the renewable energy trends. Watch for solar panels to drop in price but also follow the installation numbers carefully. They can vary a lot state to state. The wind and solar industries are very risky from a startup company point of view. Even experienced HVAC folks are having a hard time with successfully breaking in to the industry. I recommend maintaining a due diligence until the path becomes clearer. I encourage entrepreneurs to keep thinking up ideas that may somehow fit with the changes in the markets.
(3) Zero pollution energy production in our future – Out of the reach of most entrepreneurs is what needs to happen in the entire energy production and distribution industry. Significant changes in the way power is produced, distributed, and managed. The energy crisis we face as a country is tied to the ability to develop and distribute energy faster, better, cheaper than we do today. Consider that tomorrow energy engineers and scientist successfully produce hydrogen powered fusion sources. Consult the US Department of Energy website to learn more about the potential of this technology [ http://science.energy.gov/fes/ ] to learn more. The promise there is that the non-polluting energy source will take twenty plus years to fully commercialize its potential once it works reliably. Then there is the continued impact on our aging power distribution and management systems. They are still using technologies created more than one hundred years ago. Future systems need to be far more efficient, reliable, safe for the environment and people, and affordable. We are not there yet but an effort similar to that which got us to moon would permenantly solve the energy production problems for our country and others. Entrepreneurs can however, participate with getting their ideas in front of various groups and just about anybody who will listen.
(4) Alternative automotive alternatives – For the automotive industry test after test shows that if we were driving hydrogen fuel cell vehicles we would be significantly better off. Check out the US Department of Energy website for fuel cells [ http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/fuelcell.shtml ] to learn more. The problem is the hudrogen distribution system has a long way to go before you roll into a fueling station to top up your high pressure tank along the path of your trip anywhere in the country. Have you considered that electric only vehicles are really not the mainstream future path of the auto? Consumers have. Again, the market is awaiting solutions that may be developed by contributing entrepreneurs who invest their ideas by finding opportunities requiring those ideas.
Lastly, and I frequently state in these columns as advice to entrepreneurs, observe, think, and participate in getting new ideas out there. You do not have always form a company to do that. Your idea if it has merit may be worth something to someone beyond your local area. I can attest to that approach having developed ideas and sold the intellectual property to others for development on a couple of occassions. I have patents to prove that the approach works and I help other entrepreneurs offering that same advice if appropriate.