1. 2010 prediction: Energy management will increase as a priority. Energy price volatility will continue to threaten corporate bottom lines and the two key consumers of energy - buildings and data centers - will be scrutinized. Energy management software will be implemented at more and more sites to get this spending under control.
2010 recap: I saw significant customer activity and interest in using information to identify opportunities to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy expenses. Forward-looking companies are recognizing that energy prices will continue to rise steadily for the foreseeable future - regardless of the specific growth of the U.S. economy - and that reducing consumption of energy per output (i.e., increasing energy productivity) is a great way to save money.
2011 prediction: The software market for tools in the energy intelligence space is also evolving. Many vendors are emerging with offerings targeted at energy management for general facilities, manufacturing processes and data centers. I expect some clear leaders to surface from this rapidly maturing market in 2011.
2. 2010 prediction: Leadership in Energy Efficient Design evolves. LEED, the U.S. green building standard, will have to evolve and become more rigorous to defend its value to buildings. LEED will modify their practices to include postconstruction building performance to maintain LEED status.
2010 recap: This is still a work-in-process as the LEED certification system gets more stringent and companies are adopting the LEED Operations and Maintenance rating system (published last year) to ensure that buildings are operating as efficiently as possible.
2011 prediction: I expect continued evolution and increased adoption of the various LEED standards.
3. 2010 prediction: Public-private partnerships will build out the new transmission networks for wind and solar energy to transport energy generated in remote locations to metropolitan areas. Think of the famous oilman T. Boone Pickens or Hunt Energy’s partnership with the State of Texas to build out a transmission network that carries wind-generated energy from the Panhandle to Dallas.
2010 recap: There have been many activities on this front, with public and private investments in smart grid and alternative energy projects in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Austin, Texas, Arkansas, Chicago, Los Angeles and many others. Some setbacks have occurred, though, with T. Boone Pickens abandoning his plans to create the world’s largest wind farm in Texas due to delays in construction of transmissions lines. He instead seeks to do this in Canada, where current market conditions make it a more attractive investment.
2011 prediction: In the U.S., there will likely be less investment from public sources, given the high national and state debts and the shifting balance of power in the U.S. House of Representatives. Also, with several major automobile manufacturers releasing first-generation models of electric vehicles (EVs) in 2010 and 2011 (e.g. GM, Nissan, Ford), I expect to see greater activity from cities, utilities and private entities in taking the first small steps to build out a publicly available EV charging infrastructure.
4. 2010 prediction: Battery technology will enter into the equivalent of the space race between the U.S. and Russia back in the 1960s. This battery technology will impact car production, consumer electronics and more. Expect a revolutionary breakthrough in early 2011 and production by 2015.
2010 recap: There have been several announcements in the last year of various breakthroughs coming from research at major universities such as MIT, University of Buffalo, Stanford, University of Central Florida, Imperial College London.
2011 prediction: Some of these battery technologies seem to be closer to commercialization than others – so this will continue to be a very interesting area to watch in 2011 and beyond.
5. 2010 prediction: New regulations, Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index and Obama’s Environmental Executive Order drive wide-scale adoption of carbon reporting, and carbon costs become part of financial reporting. The reporting standards normalize, much like what GAAP did for accounting. Carbon has a cost that impacts business, and green businesses increase in value while the inverse is true; brown businesses lose stock value and have a harder time getting investment dollars. (Editor’s note: read related article, “The U.S. Government, Wal-Mart, and You.”)