Greentech 2011: 4 Trends Not to Expect

The greentech industry’s 2010 showing wasn’t so bad, especially for a year that saw the world recovering from a once-in-a-generation economic meltdown — but that doesn’t mean that the world’s economy is out of the woods. An international consensus on combating carbon emissions and catastrophic climate change is yet to be reached, and the U.S. and China continue to have tricky trade issues to resolve. And continual challenges exist when it comes to VC investments, progress on carbon controls and the pace of growth in the solar market.

Amidst all this uncertainty, here are some predictions about what the greentech community can expect not to expect to happen next year.

1. Venture capitalists won’t invest in greentech like they used to. In 2008, VCs put $7.6 billion into greentech startups. But a lot of that money was headed to capital-intensive biofuel and solar startups — and many of those investments have had trouble making the leap to full-scale commercial competition in a weak economy. Now they struggle to find exits in a down economy, or are going back to investors for some carry-through investment.

2. Progress on carbon controls will remain out of reach in the U.S. A Republican-controlled House of Representatives will make passage of Waxman-Markey, Kerry-Graham-Lieberman or any other variety of carbon controls very difficult to get through Congress next year. In the absence of cap-and-trade, the EPA is pushing ahead with regulations on carbon under its Clean Air Act authority — but with industry lawsuits pending, it won’t have an easy time imposing those terms.

3. Solar market growth won’t outpace 2010. This is a judgment call — predictions of next year’s solar market range all over the map, and there’s no doubt that it’s going to grow. The question is, how fast? Research firm iSupply predicts a pretty steep drop to 42 percent growth, down from 97 percent growth in 2010, while Greentech Media sees an even steeper drop as Germany and other key European markets reduce feed-in tariffs for solar power. That’s not great news for solar startups trying to compete with the likes of First Solar and Suntech.

4. Home energy management will see a shakeout. Scores of technologies exist in the home energy management section, including home energy management dashboards, thermostats, plug-in adapters, orbs, alarms and other gadgets. But they crowd a market that doesn’t really exist yet outside expensive customer home automation jobs and utility pilot projects. Pike Research predicts home energy management dashboards or web-enabled PC or mobile displays will reach some 28 million homes by 2015. But just how contenders will get there remains unclear. Startups in the space, meanwhile, will have to compete with the likes of giants like Honeywell, GE, Cisco and Intel.

Read more of my predictions at GigaOM Pro.

Image source: flickr user ricketyus

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