The cleantech revolution

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By Tim Carey

Driven by ecological and political concerns, and fueled by stimulus dollars, smart-energy infrastructures—the smart-electricity grid and the related electric-transportation ecosystem—are becoming realities. As PwC’s US Cleantech leader Tim Carey observes, interest and support for these infrastructures are growing, and opportunities for a diverse group of partners—both large and small—are emerging at a rapid pace as the build-out accelerates. Both businesses and investors have taken notice and are poised to cash in on what could turn out to be a revenue bonanza. But some companies are missing out on opportunities they didn’t know existed. Are you among them?

On August 14, 2003, more than 50 million people were affected by a massive power outage that began in Ohio and subsequently shut down over 100 power plants in the United States and Canada. It was neither the first time that the reliability of traditional infrastructures like the electricity grid has been challenged, nor the last.

Today, a convergence of political and economic events has set in motion an erosion among such infrastructures. Under strain for decades, the electricity grid is among the first to receive the attention of both large companies and entrepreneurs, which are revolutionizing the way electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed, and consumed.

This burst of innovation is in large measure a response to a national mandate to create a smart grid capable of supporting increased levels of renewable energy and a growing fleet of electric vehicles. This in turn is leading to new sectors that are fueling major convergences and cross-pollinations between and among a plethora of partners, including utilities, energy storage firms, automakers, telecommunications and information technology companies, and providers of renewable energy. Understanding these new convergences and the dynamics shaping them will enable companies to assess and seize opportunities that might otherwise be missed.