Renewable energy needs a few good entrepreneurs

The renewable energy sector is in need of a few good entrepreneurs, according to Cleantech Fellows Institute (CFI) Director Wayne Greenberg, a “serial entrepreneur” who hopes to recruit some of the best and brightest available minds to the sector.

In mid-September a half-dozen “C-level” business managers are starting on a crash course in Colorado to learn about green technology, Greenberg told GenerationHub Sept. 11.

The participants are paying $8,000 each for an intensive 17-week program designed to immerse them in issues like clean energy generation, storage technology, energy efficiency, building technologies along with infrastructure, regulatory and policy issues.

The fledgling institute is geared toward people who might be new to green technology, but not new to management.

This is not Business 101 for people who like wind and solar power. “We don’t teach entrepreneurship, leadership or management,” Greenberg said. These are people who have either already run small firms or had executive posts in large companies, Greenberg said.

The program sponsors include the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association, a national venture capital network, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and many other organizations. “We have NREL in our backyard,” and that makes it a national program, Greenberg said.

CFI recruited from across the country during this, its inaugural year. It received interest from 25-to-30 potential applicants. Some were qualified but elected not to participate this year for various reasons, including business conflicts. Some might take the program next year and that’s fine with Greenberg.

The program was never about numbers, Greenberg said. CFI never wanted more than a dozen or so participants at any one time. “For a first year, I think we did extremely well,” Greenberg said.

When asked about the need for the program, Greenberg replies that clean technologies are still fairly new. Unlike the auto industry there is no such thing as a family with three generations of people working in the renewable sector. The Cleantech Fellows Institute program could eventually help government organizations, like NREL, commercialize developing technology.

There was a similar effort to CFI a few years back in New England that was eventually handed off to a university. Greenberg would like to eventually see this type program cloned in all regions of the country.

Greenberg himself has been an entrepreneur and “angel investor. He has over 12 years of experience in energy and clean technology. He is also former president of Financial Times Energy and also president of E Source.

Many companies haven’t yet heard of the CFI effort, but the reaction has been positive across the board. We are not really competing with anybody” and are seen as “wearing a white hat,” Greenberg said.

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About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at