Navigant Research Blog

Pike Research and Navigant: The Road Ahead

— July 12, 2012

At this point, many of you have probably seen the news that Pike Research has joined Navigant to offer a strong combination of market research and consulting services for the global energy and clean technology industries.  The Pike Research team is very excited about this combination as we see an extraordinary opportunity to enhance and expand Pike Research’s market intelligence services in the energy and utility world while leveraging the strength and depth of Navigant’s consulting expertise during a period of dramatic transformation and change for all industry players.

Since Pike Research was founded in early 2009, our team has have explored a wide diversity of cleantech industry topics, authoring hundreds of research reports and custom research deliverables for our clients.  The team has published more than 900 blog posts, issued more than 400 press releases, presented at scores of industry conferences, and has been being cited in the media countless thousands of times.  But despite all this research activity, amidst which Pike Research has been recognized as a strong global leader in cleantech market analysis, the journey was really just beginning.  Now, we look forward to the next chapter – providing in-depth market intelligence on an expanded set of critical industry topics as a part of Navigant.

The Pike Research and Navigant teams have worked together closely to identify strategic opportunities for expanded research offerings, particularly by leveraging the broader Energy Practice’s knowledge and expertise in numerous industry sectors.  Going forward, you can expect to see research diving deeper into several key areas that are strong cornerstones of Navigant’s energy industry expertise:

  • Customer engagement
  • Demand side management
  • Emerging technologies
  • Energy certification programs
  • Energy efficiency
  • Energy research & development
  • Military and defense markets
  • Natural gas markets
  • Power generation
  • Power transmission
  • Renewable energy
  • Wholesale electricity markets

In addition, we anticipate continuing to deepen our research activities focused on several key industry stakeholder groups:

  • Electric, gas, and water utilities
  • Energy service companies
  • Gas distribution and pipeline companies
  • Government agencies
  • Independent power producers
  • Project developers

Naturally, during this process of evolution and expansion, we will continue to focus on emerging cleantech markets in our core practice areas: Smart Energy, Smart Grid, Smart Transportation, Smart Industry, and Smart Buildings.  And our strong existing client relationships will continue to be a top priority – even as we expand our reach into new market segments.

The road ahead is an exciting one, and we look forward to continuing to work with all of you as we aim to provide the world’s highest quality, most insightful and valuable market intelligence focused on global cleantech and energy sectors.  As always, we welcome all of your feedback, input, and ideas on the most worthwhile areas for our analysts to research, in addition to any ways that we can better serve our clients and industry stakeholders.


ARPA-E Comes Out Swinging

— March 8, 2011

Last week, I attended the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, held just outside Washington, D.C. With more than 2,000 attendees, the event was significantly larger than I expected. Equally impressive was the level of enthusiasm and dynamism present at the summit. The commitment and unity of purpose demonstrated by ARPA-E’s leaders and supporters are especially important right now as the program stares down the barrel of potentially massive budget cuts. In fact, there is some question about whether ARPA-E will continue to be funded at all.

There’s little doubt that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) will see significant budget cuts, whatever the Congressional compromise on the present federal budget debate might be. Many in Congress view the DOE’s initiatives as a liberal, environmentally friendly manifestation of the Obama agenda. As a result of the current political environment, many of these programs face the chopping block.

That said, ARPA-E came out swinging at its summit last week. This initiative, borne out of the controversial American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), has shown itself to be a fighter. Several noteworthy power players, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu and bipartisan luminaries such as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, have demonstrated strong support for the ARPA-E program. The Department of Defense (DOD) is also signaling solid backing for ARPA-E, arguing that technologies coming out of the program could have significant national security benefits. Because of this support, not to mention the inherent benefits of ARPA-E, we at Pike Research believe that the program has positioned itself very well to be a survivor in the new Congressional budget. On a broader level, it holds the potential to become a champion of the emerging clean energy industry.

ARPA-E is a program that funds early stage, high risk initiatives in the clean energy space. It was initially formed as a mirror image of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), well known as the group that incubated the internet, global positioning systems (GPS), and other innovations that haven proven nothing less than world changing for military and civilian applications. ARPA-E is similarly ambitious. It positions itself as a program that could change the face of energy generation and distribution on a worldwide basis.

Leaders of ARPA-E have promoted the program as a stalwart representative of American innovation, dedicated to the principles of not just technological superiority, but also leadership in terms of independence from foreign oil and other energy sources. Supporters include traditional energy companies and nameplates such as Ernst & Young, Lockheed Martin, Harvard University, National Grid, and Northeast Utilities.

In Pike Research’s objective assessment, ARPA-E is an initiative with significant potential in terms of producing innovations that could address several of the energy world’s foremost issues, including:

  • Advanced batteries for stationary, portable, and motive applications – with a strong focus on electric vehicles
  • Energy storage for utility applications – including both bulk storage and ancillary services
  • Advanced fuels, including biofuels

The program is focused on other energy breakthroughs as well. In our opinion, though, these other sectors are not ARPA-E’s strong suit. Discussions about the future of the electrical grid, for example, are a pale reflection of what you’ll hear from utility and technology industry leaders about the opportunity for smart grid technologies. Similarly, ARPA-E’s emphasis on the huge potential of energy efficiency in commercial buildings – without a doubt, a strong focus for us here at Pike Research – is somewhat lacking. We would argue that, whatever ARPA-E’s budget ends up being, the program should narrow its focus to its areas of strongest expertise. Let other industry groups and agencies concentrate on opportunities like the smart grid and building efficiency.

At Pike Research, our optimism for the development of the cleantech industry stretches far beyond the borders of the United States. We believe that these technological challenges will be solved by a multitude of companies in all regions of the world, in a number of ways. Yet, American innovation will undoubtedly be a bellwether in terms of defining the global debate about clean energy technologies. And it’s clear that ARPA-E could be a vital component of the U.S. innovation portfolio.


Happy 10th Birthday to the PvH Prius!

— November 17, 2010

I know this is usually a technical blog, but I need to reflect on this day about an important personal anniversary. It was on November 17, 2000, when I drove my shiny new Prius off the lot at Burt Toyota in Englewood, Colorado, making me one of the first people in the Denver area to do so. I have that event to thank more than any other for the happy transition I’ve made in the decade since.

I had a relatively comfortable dot-com job in the summer of 2000, and thought it was finally time to trade in my 1990 Honda Civic. I narrowed it down to a Honda Accord Coupe and a few others, but I didn’t want to make any decisions until I learned more about this “new electric car” that I’d heard about from Toyota.

There was just one Prius at my local dealership when I arrived. They had the hood up, and I couldn’t believe how Toyota managed to cram two engines into a space barely big enough for just one. I took a test drive, and then went home to spend the rest of that night reading everything I could about this car and concept on the Internet (even though most Prius websites at that time were in Japanese!). Despite not usually wanting to be on the bleeding edge of anything, the car’s reasonable price, exceptional warranties, and use of its own momentum as an energy source made this an irresistible opportunity. The Prius was built-to-order back then, so putting down a deposit in August resulted in “my” Prius showing up three months later.

In addition to the usual pride of owning a new car, I was also fascinated with this new (for me, at least) hybrid technology. While I am still much more of a lead-foot than a hyper-miler (my wife regularly gets 5-10 mpg more in the Prius than I do without even trying), I still love how the car’s Consumption display turns all green after driving for a half-hour down a mountain pass at 100+ mpg. And while that is the case for most vehicles coasting downhill, I especially love how the computer turns off the internal combustion engine when idling, even though my lights, HVAC, radio, etc. are all still going strong. As the sacrilegiously funny TV show South Park once described: the smog around my car was soon replaced with a cloud of … smug!

More importantly, however, the Prius made me much more aware of environmental issues in general and energy issues in particular. As the dot-com bubble burst, I began my career transition away from traditional IT to what I then called sustainability issues. In hindsight, I’m sure I could’ve been more successful – or at least quicker – in this transition, but my pestering the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in west Denver, volunteering and later working for the Colorado Renewable Energy Society, and other efforts finally led me to Pike Research. And while I may occasionally be called an “energy expert” by some in the Denver mainstream media, I now prefer to promote the work of actual energy and cleantech experts like Pike Research’s industry analysts.

After 10 years and over 140,000 miles of torturous driving, my Prius is still going strong. I’m also proud of other things that have happened “as a result” of my car-buying decision. I gave countless rides to people who were equally fascinated with hybrid technology, and at least 3-4 of those people told me they bought their own Prius or other hybrid in part thanks to that ride. Toyota’s next version of the Prius would win multiple Car of the Year honors (and hopefully they’ll get back to that level soon!).

As for Burt Toyota: founder LG Chavez recently sold his network of traditional dealerships to focus primarily on electric vehicles and other cleantech concepts.

I continue to give occasional presentations about my Prius experience and my own industry analyses, although they usually morph into more pointed discussions about Peak Oil and other resource-limitation issues. While much of cleantech appears to be driven by the fight against Global Warming and other “tailpipe” issues on the back end, I remain far more concerned with the increasing physical, economic, political, and other constraints placed on our natural resources. Either way, I feel as hopeful as ever about the cleantech industries that have emerged in the decade since I took a chance on that new electric car from Toyota.

Thanks again to Toyota for betting on hybrid technology, and Happy 10th Birthday to my beloved PvH Prius. You’ve got a wash, winterization, and maybe even some detailing coming your way!


Observations from NREL’s Industry Growth Forum

— October 22, 2010

I was honored to attend two great events in Denver this week. Pike Research is a founding member of the Colorado Cleantech Industry Association, so (Pike Research VP of Global Business Development) Tom Mahowald and I went to their first annual Cleantech Awards Luncheon. This event also served as a warm-up for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s 23rd Annual Industry Growth Forum.

Among the several hundred attendees at the CCIA Luncheon were Colorado Governor (and Promoter-in-Chief of Colorado’s New Energy Economy) Bill Ritter, U.S. Senator (and original sponsor of a national renewable electricity standard) Mark Udall, Denver Mayor (and possible next Colorado Governor) John Hickenlooper, all three members of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, and enough other local public officials & dignitaries to fill up the first few tables. CCIA Executive Director Chris Shapard threw down the gauntlet early by saying that, despite Colorado’s obvious leadership in cleantech, Texas is investing many more actual dollars in the space: this notion would repeat itself later in the week, even though several Texans commented on how much more organized Colorado’s cleantech community appeared to be.

CCIA named Ritter its Political Advocate of the Year, a fitting tribute for the outgoing Governor whose leadership has transformed Colorado into a true cleantech hub in just the past four years. VanDyne SuperTurbo won CCIA’s Emerging Cleantech Company of the Year, and OPX Biotechnologies was a runner-up in the Breakout Cleantech Company category. Both companies were also finalists presenting at the NREL Growth Forum, so this was the start of an eventful week for them.

Prominent among the Forum’s opening speakers was David Danielson, a Program Director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s new ARPA-E program. Danielson would be the first of many throughout the week who were adamant about sending cleantech startup ideas directly to him, although his emphasis of ideas over business plans obviously attracted even more attention among the “geeks with no business plan.” Additional opening speakers would stress the importance of government clean energy policies, venture capitalist efforts to “turn black swans into green elephants,” and the need for the entire industry to re-work its narrative to show the rest of the world how clean technology leads directly to more livable cities.

The first pitch I saw was from MTPV, an early stage company from Austin, TX, that converts waste heat into electricity using semiconductor chips. I remember being impressed with their idea & presentation in general, but had forgotten most of the details by the time I sat next to MTPV Founder Dave Mather at the Awards Luncheon the next day. I’ll let the cat out of the bag now and mention that MTPV won the Forum’s Best Venture, and everybody at our table – even those from competing companies – were swept up in the excitement (sort of like Kramer at the Tony Awards).

Instead of pitch-after-pitch, the Forum’s agenda was interspersed with other sessions that provided insightful commentary on the overall cleantech space. A “Design as a Competitive Advantage” session stressed the need to replace DIY with DIT (Do it Together instead of stove-piping a company’s R&D, manufacturing, production, and other core units), and how elegant design that focuses on system-level outcomes is essential to a sustainable future. Another session on the status of cleantech financing noticed how “cleantech” now applies to much more than just energy, how capital-intensive investments like solar farms are giving way to more capital-efficient projects like energy retrofits, and a timely reminder to the room full of people looking for financing to “just sell stuff!” (i.e., how strong sales & revenue numbers are at least as important as a good idea or team).

I could go on (and on!) about the variety of pitches I heard in renewables, efficiency, transportation, water management, etc., but will instead refer you back to the Forum website for more on that. I will return to OPX Biotechnologies and VanDyne SuperTurbo, however, as they “tied for second place” by winning the Forum’s Outstanding Venture Awards. OPX has been a darling of the cleantech investment community over the past few months, and they can now add this prestigious award to their increasingly crowded mantle. Ed VanDyne’s company is also well-positioned to take advantage of an automotive market that’s sure to see a growing percentage of turbocharged vehicles for increased efficiency (see Dave Hurst’s entry in this blog for more about this).

While I’m sure some of it was to thank the hosts, one common theme I heard all week long was how lucky the American cleantech community was to have a resource like NREL. I know all the Forum’s presenters feel this way, and the three winning companies will receive cash & in-kind support from NREL to bring their ideas even closer to market.


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