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Cleantech to ‘Backtrack’ in 2013, Kachan Predicts

Global cleantech will “backtrack” in 2013, with venture capital investments declining even further than it did in 2012 and long-term risks emerging in the solar, wind and electric vehicle market, forecasts consulting and analysis firm Kachan & Co.

The company’s latest annual predictions say cleantech venture capital investment won’t ever return to the highs it achieved before the financial crisis of 2007-2008. In 2013, the sector will lose venture investors because of disappointing returns, poor policy support worldwide and a lag time in the pullback of equity and debt investment.

But, this doesn’t mean the end of cleantech, the firm says. Corporate capital is filling in for traditional venture capital, and this investment should help clean technologies that are already “de-risked” reach meaningful levels of scale, according to managing partner Dallas Kachan.

However, solar and wind won’t see strong growth next year, Kachan predicts. The markets already suffer from margin erosions, allegations of corruption and international trade issues. Despite falling prices per kilowatt-hour, in 2013, the firm says poor progress in grid-scale power storage technology — and the cost of batteries and other means of storage — along with continuing progress in emerging nuclear technologies, natural gas and cleaner coal will put downward pressure on solar and wind.

Meanwhile, the firm predicts 2013 will be the year a new set of technologies will emerge aimed at capturing particulate and CO2 emissions from coal fired power plants. The barrier to capturing coal emissions has been cost and power plant output penalties. Kachan research has identified new technologies without such drawbacks, and forecasts the world will begin to see them in 2013.

Innovations in internal combustion engines could further delay the timing of an all-electric vehicle future, says Kachan. In 2013, the firm predicts new fuel economy innovations in internal combustion engines will enter the market, including new natural gas conversion and heat exchange retrofits of existing engines aimed at lessening fuel needs. Some of these technologies, when combined, claim to be able to reduce fuel costs by 90 percent, the firm says.

Additionally, Kachan predicts more adoption of mining cleantech innovation in areas such as tailings remediation, membrane-based water purification, sensors and telematics, route optimization software intended to lower fuel and equipment maintenance costs, and low-water, low-power hydrometallurgical and other processes for mineral separation.

The firm also says that 2013 will be the year the world’s leading agricultural companies accept consumer-driven GMO backlash and work toward more sustainable, “greener” ways of producing food. A Kachan report published in November says Advanced BioNutrition, GreenScene Agritek and Urban Barns are among the 57 companies at the leading edge of agricultural cleantech.

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