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Published on December 31st, 2008 | by Jennifer Kho


Cascadia CEO's Cleantech Forecasts for 2009

December 31st, 2008 by  


It’s been quite a year for the cleantech industry, with roller-coaster oil and stock prices, multiyear federal tax credits finally passed after more than a year of narrowly failed attempts, the beginning of a recession and the election of a new president.

“It feels like it’s been three years in one just with all the emotions,” said Michael Butler, CEO of investment bank Cascadia Capital. “A lot of people thought they were having a really good year, then they were hit with the negative economic environment. … So many people are saying ‘let’s just shut down until the end of the year.'”

As the bumpy year ends, industry insiders such as Butler are trying to predict what the next year will bring. It’s a difficult task in an environment where most investors seem to be waiting, keeping their money in their pockets, to see what happens.

Tim Teich, vice president for sales and marketing at Global Solar, says it feels like everyone’s holding their breath. “Everyone’s constricted,” he said. “It might be a sucking in of the breath before letting it out, but most people are holding it right now, which is creating this pause.”

Butler, at least, is optimistic. He says the economic climate has been partly mitigated by president-elect Barack Obama.

“You’ve got people giddy right now; there’s a lot of excitement [about that],” he said. “It’s offsetting some of the malaise.”

Butler said he thinks next year will the “an OK year” for cleantech, bolstered by support from the Obama administration, that will set the market up for a big market in 2010 and 2011.

He expects that sectors such as software, green IT and green building sectors fare well. “Less capital-intensive sectors will do well; more capital-intensive sectors will struggle,” he predicts.

Still, in spite of its reliance on capital, he thinks solar will continue to thrive. “Solar seems to have reached a tipping point because there’s so much momentum,” he said. “I think [solar] valuations are coming down – some of the valuations got ahead of themselves – but some of those companies are great long-term plays. Some are maybe not worth $1 billion, maybe they’re worth $400 million, but [solar] is real.”


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About the Author

-- With more than nine years of reporting experience, Jennifer Kho has been covering green technology since 2004, when she started the cleantech beat at Red Herring magazine. She wrote for Red Herring until 2007, when she helped launch the Greentech Media site as its founding editor. She left Greentech Media in November. Her stories have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and TheStreet.com. She also regularly contributes to Earth2Tech.

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