National Smart Grid Juggernaut Rolls On: Reid to Unveil Energy Bill This Week

Congressional wrangling over the stimulus package helped take the ideas of a national smart grid and utility decoupling out of wonky obscurity, but stopped short of mandating their implementation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wants to go further, to bulk up the federal muscle behind a grid buildout. The Nevada senator told a gathering of political, business, energy and labor heavyweights in Washington, D.C., today that he plans to introduce an energy bill late this week that, if passed, would expand government authority for siting transmission lines. It would, he said, put an end to an era in which one state can “hold up forever something that needs to be done for the good of the country.”

More importantly, such a move would make it easier to build infrastructure for carrying energy from places with abundant wind, solar and geothermal energy resources to population centers with higher demand for electricity. He said the bill will be bipartisan, but did not disclose a Republican co-sponsor.

Reid revealed his timeline and scant but important details about the bill at the National Clean Energy Project summit, an event that has in attendance such influential figures as former President Bill Clinton (who called for Congress to pass a federal decoupling mandate), former Vice President and Kleiner Perkins partner Al Gore, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, energy magnate T. Boone Pickens and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Asked in a press conference about potential resistance to the bill on the part of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a group of 253 state regulators, Reid said, “Whatever we pass at a federal level trumps all of that.”
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Green Campaign Watch: Gore Supports Obama, Cleantech Cheers

Former Vice President turned cleantech venture capitalist Al Gore has come out of political hibernation to officially endorse presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. The announcement was made at a fundraiser in Detroit, Mich. last night but earlier in the day Gore wrote to his own supporters that he would “do whatever I can to make sure [Obama] is elected President of the United States.”

Beyond the shared politics of change, Obama and Gore share a vision for venture capital in the cleantech space. Obama’s energy plan includes a ‘Clean Technologies Deployment Venture Capital Fund’ backed by an annual $10 billion investment over five years. Meanwhile, Gore has found himself with access to a massive $1.88 billion earmarked for cleantech investments, spread across three separate funds and two investment firms — Kleiner Perkins and Climate Solutions Fund.
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Kleiner’s Gore and Doerr Pitching Green Growth Fund

Kleiner Perkins, the green-leaning venture capital firm, is reportedly raising a “green growth” fund of more than $400 million for investment in later-stage, less risky cleantech startups, says Pehub.com (full story on Pewnews.com). The firm has already allocated a good third of its $600 million main fund to technologies that aim to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and this additional money makes the firm’s purse for cleantech one of the bigger among its green VC peers.

The folks at Pehub.com say Kleiner partners John Doerr and Al Gore have been actively pitching the fund, which would do both private and public investment, to potential limited partners. And the firm has reportedly already hired an exec from Goldman Sachs to help manage the fund.

Several venture firms and angels that focus on cleantech have been investing a lot of funds into very early stage, risky startups, with promising technology in the lab but a long and questionable timeline to product, let alone profitability. Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins and Mohr Davidow come to mind as notable early investors.

Perhaps focusing on later-stage, already-established companies that have already started generating revenue will turn out to be a smart move for Gore and Doerr’s new fund. The firm didn’t exactly hit any home runs last year.

3 Resources for Switchers

Of course, for web workers “switcher” generally means one thing: people who used to use Windows PCs who are beginning to use a Mac instead. We’ve certainly seen our share of switchers here at WWD: a number of our staffers have made the transition to the Mac life, and we hear from readers who have started down the same road – or who want to – fairly frequently. Market share numbers bear this out; though it’s still a fraction of Windows use, Apple use has been steadily growing.

But despite this trend, switching is not as easy as the hardcore Mac fanboys would have you believe. Despite propaganda to the contrary, OS X is not completely intuitive (no operating system ever is). If you’re in the early stages of switching, you can learn how to use your new Mac the hard way, by pounding your head against things, pressing random keys, and doing lots of Google searches. Or you can look for shortcuts. Here are three resources that you might find useful.
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Swapping optical for battery on X300: you’ll need a screwdriver

If you’re planning to take advantage of the Lenovo X300’s swappable bay, make sure you have a screwdriver handy. That’s the magic tool needed in order to release the optical drive or battery from the bay in case you want to switch modules. The procedure is quick, painless and easy as shown the Lenovo folks in the video above. Simply flip your X300 over, undo and remove a single screw, and then use the screwdriver to release the optical drive or battery inside. Once you swap, you just need to replace the screw… and put your screwdriver in a safe place so you don’t lose it for the next swap.Although easy to do with a tool, it’s a shame that some button or latch mechansim couldn’t have worked in this case. The more you have to carry, the less mobile you become and isn’t mobility the point of the X300 to begin with? Not a major issue, but for perspective buyers that plan to take advantage of the optical drive and 3-cell battery option, this is good info to have.(via Small Laptops and Notebooks)

Microvision SHOW, a palm-sized DVD-quality projector

Showhand2_3

The phrase “DVD-quality” usually doesn’t get a high-def junkie like me excited, but I’ll make an exception in the case of Microvision’s SHOW. The handheld pico-projector will be on display (heh) at CES but in prototype form only; the company doesn’t anticipate a product release until the end of 2008.There’s a few interesting aspects from a mobile perspective. First off, the unit is small at only 7mm thick and sized roughly like a PDA so it can be thrown into a gadget bag. Next up is the rechargeable battery that lasts around 2.5 hours. Longer life would be better, but let’s face it: if you’re showing a slide-deck presentation for anything longer than 20 minutes, odds are good that you’ll face either a snoozing audience or a crowd of BS-Bingo players. Last up is the picture quality for something this small: 848 x 480 ranging in size from 12- to 100-inches diagonal.Of course, there’s a limited market for this type of mobile display gadgetry. I wouldn’t carry one around unless I were a trainer, presenter or someone who likes to surf the web on the side of a neighbors house in the middle of the night. Hmm… I probably shared too much just then. Guess it’s time to move.

Opera browser on Pocket PC

I love it when some pesky start-ups bitch slaps a giant, especially one which has a lock on most of the user-interfacing markets. Norway-based alternative browser maker, Opera, is planning to release a Microsoft Pocket PC Mobile Phone version of its lightweight, lighting fast browser. I have seen it working on a handful of Pocket PC based phones, include the much-in-demand Audiovox, which Scobelizer has deemed the ultimate “bling bling” of phones. The demo I saw was nasty fast, even faster than the one on UIQ platform. Opera is making a lot of headway in the mobile browser space, especially in Japan where it has locked down some serious deals with KDDI. I guess like everyone else I find their Small Screen Rendering technology da “bomb.” Oh did I mention, that the final version of Opera for Pocket PC Mobile Phone OS, and I am assuming other platforms will have an RSS auto-detect feature in the address field. Nice!

Rise of the Dormitory CEO

Michael Dell may not be much loved in Silicon Valley for his super-efficient model and promoting the concept of Moore’s Claw, but he is clearly inspiring a generation of dormitory entrepreneurs. Associated Press chronicles the start-up experiences of college students who have started their own businesses. Lance Larson who graduated from San Diego State University started OC Hosting while attending college, and now does about a million dollars in revenues. There is Anthony Casalena, a senior at the Univeristy of Maryland, runs SquareSpace.com, a hosted blogging service, which I have tried and found more snappy and easy to use than other programs. “School work is not nine to five — you can kind of push it around,” said Casalena. The article while inspiring misses to highlight the key trends that have helped these young stars establish their business. The Internet as a distribution channel is new way of doing things, and gives even the smallest guy an even playing field. Or how about instant markets from all the new platforms that are cropping up – wireless phones, PDAs and home networks for example.

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