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NREL incubator alliance helps entrepreneurs build clean energy solutions

DOE/National Renewable Energy Laboratory : 23 February, 2001  (Technical Article)
The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory announced the addition of six incubators to the National Alliance of Clean Energy Business Incubators, formed by NREL in April 2000. Alliance member incubators will focus on accelerating the growth and development of U.S. technology-based start-up companies in the clean energy sector.
The Alliance teams NREL with the seven business incubators and a network of venture capitalists and energy industry leaders to provide business and financial services to clean energy entrepreneurs.

'Our goal is to work toward economic growth, enhanced energy reliability and security, and mitigation of energy's impact on the environment,' said Lawrence Murphy, NREL's manager of Enterprise Development Programs, who has been instrumental in developing the incubator alliance. 'We can do that by helping companies succeed.'

The incubators' objective is to build companies that are sound investments now and in the long term. They will link technology companies with a network of investors, energy experts and industry leaders who can provide mentoring, financing and introductions to the global energy community. The Alliance will assist companies working on a broad range of clean energy technologies. Those include solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, microturbine, fuel cell, power quality, energy efficiency, alternative fuels and infrastructure and information technologies.

According to Nancy Floyd, a founding partner of Nth Power, a venture capital company that is part of the Alliance network, 'the energy technology sector is one of the better performers,' she said. 'Venture investment has gone from $400 million in 1999 to more than $1 billion in 2000.'

Incubators participating in the Alliance can help entrepreneurs take advantage of this growth in the energy investment market. Participating incubators include the Texas-based Austin Technology Incubator; New York's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Incubator; the State University of New York at Albany, Institute for Materials; the Environmental Business Cluster in California; the Florida/NASA Business Incubation Center at Brevard Community College; the Boston Technology Venture Center in Massachusetts; and the Georgia-based Advanced Technology Development Center at Georgia Tech.

Texas was the first state to partner with NREL to develop state support for the Alliance. 'Clean energy businesses offer great economic development potential for Texas,' said Dub Taylor, director of the Texas State Energy Conservation Office. Texas has an electric utility restructuring law that mandates 2000 megawatts of new renewable energy generation by 2009, making it one of the most attractive markets for clean energy. 'The Alliance is perfectly timed to capitalize on this growing market,' Taylor said.

Soon after Texas joined the Alliance, the California Energy Commission allocated funds to support incubation of clean energy companies in California. Jim Robbins, executive director of the Environmental Business Cluster in San Jose, Calif., said public interest in clean energy alternatives for California is high. The energy crisis in California has highlighted the importance of energy to the economy, as well as energy reliability and security and environmental quality. Clean energy companies are poised to contribute solutions to these problems. The technologies are rapidly evolving and are, or soon will be, cost-competitive with conventional alternatives whose costs are rising.

'This initiative is poised to take advantage of these opportunities,' said Robbins.
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