Today in Cleantech

Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s testimony before Congress is dominating today’s news. Chu is out with the message that politics didn’t influence his decision to grant the loan guarantee, nor did it affect his decision to allow private debt to become senior to government debt (meaning a group of investors will get repaid from the liquidation, not the government). I wonder if Republicans can keep this alive through next November, though it might be enough just wrap the message into a broader one about Obama’s failed stimulus package. At least the AP printed a quote from Chu reinforcing the key message, which is that if the government doesn’t step in with subsidies for cleantech, America should “accept defeat” in the clean energy race. What Chu really should say, but is too politically sensitive to say, is that the U.S. is getting crushed by China in clean tech and that if the feds don’t help out, the pummeling is only going to get worse.

So this is what happened to the hydrogen highway

The dream of the “hydrogen highway” in recent years has morphed into a tech for industrial applications like to power forklifts and fleet vehicles. Pike Research estimates that there will only be 5,200 hydrogen fueling stations throughout the world by 2020.

Today in Cleantech

If anyone was wondering what the Obama Administration wanted to see from utilities and companies building the country’s smart grid, here’s a document for you to read. The White House released its “Policy Framework for the 21st Century Grid” (PDF) this morning, laying out just what the President would like to do to boost grid modernization in the future — besides directing another $4.5 billion in federal stimulus grants toward the industry, of course. With Congress now deadlocked against any more stimulus, what can the President do to boost the industry further? Well, for one, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has some rural utility funding authority, and plans to make up to $250 million in loans available to rural grid improvements. Beyond that, there’s a new pledge to speed up permitting for transmission and clean energy projects on the part of the Departments of Energy and Interior, a new federal-industry best practices coordination effort to have its own Web site (, and a new non-profit program called Grid 21 to try to get consumers more interested in energy saving. For not being able to spend a lot of money, I suppose that’s pretty good.

Obama administration unveils programs to build the smart grid

As expected, at an event at the White House on Monday, Obama administration officials unveiled a slew of programs and initiatives that will aim to help add information technology to the power grid to make the grid more efficient and more secure.

White House to Launch New Smart Grid Initiatives

On Monday morning the White House plans to hold an event focused on the smart grid that will discuss new private and public initiatives for how to implement a smarter power grid in the U.S.

The Lessons of Airmail for Clean Power

Can the U.S. government do for clean power, what it did for airplane technology almost a century ago? That’s the plan that nerd-rockstar Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu detailed at the Berkeley Stanford Cleantech Conference this weekend.

VIDEO: DOE Chief Speaks Candidly on Budget Cuts, Clean Power

After the Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu spoke on stage at the ARPA-E Summit on Tuesday, he joined a group of reporters and answered questions candidly about the budget cuts, the high-risk early stage tech that was funded by ARPA-E and oil prices.

Today in Cleantech

Let’s go to Washington D.C. this morning, where the Department of Energy is holding an annual summit for its ARPA-E program. The DARPA-modeled program has invested some $400 million into 121 projects representing the risky cutting edge of clean energy and green technology, and the Obama Administration is seeking $550 million more in the 2012 fiscal year budget. But with federal programs supporting green technology under attack on multiple fronts, it’s possible that the program’s budget could be drastically cut next year. Energy Secretary Steven Chu opened Tuesday’s summit with a keynote speech positioning ARPA-E as a critical part of the United States’ strategy to retain its technological lead against Europe and China in industries from solar and wind power and advanced battery technology to more energy-efficient buildings and power grid systems. That’s just a start to the list of technologies that are being worked on by companies and research institutions using ARPA-E funding, including a few startups that have recently raised additional private investment, such as Transphorm and Phononic Devices. Earth2Tech’s Katie Fehrenbacher is at the conference this morning — stay tuned for more updates.

Top 10 Greentech Influencers of 2010

Since influencers are what makes the greentech industry world go round, we thought we’d bring you the 10 individuals that we think had the biggest effect on the greentech sector this year. From corporate bigwigs to policy wonks, these are the people changing the sector.