WAYNE, Pa., Oct. 24, 2002 -- Energy information systems and wind-powered generation will emerge as the two most critical energy technologies in the next five years, according to a majority of energy entrepreneurs and investors surveyed at the EnerTech Forum in Phoenix last week.
In the next ten years, fuel cells and photo-voltaic technologies will emerge as critical technologies, respondents said.
One hundred fifteen participants attended the EnerTech Forum, an annual gathering of energy, telecommunications and technology leaders.
Scott Ungerer, Managing Director of EnerTech Capital, said respondents believed energy information systems, which allow companies to better manage their energy use, would continue to grow, particularly given the current economic climate. "With corporate America's increased focus on the bottom line, monitoring and managing energy use is receiving more attention than ever by corporate users."
Ungerer added that fuel cells and photo-voltaic technologies are receiving increased attention from industry observers. "While both are in limited use now, it is apparent that respondents believe that newer technologies will eventually replace conventional technologies as they develop more competitive price points," he said.
Fuel cells convert the chemical energy of a fuel into electricity, while photo-voltaic technologies convert light into electricity.
On the telecommunications front, respondents predicted the following communications technologies would be in widespread use in the next five years: broadband wireless (named by 68 percent) and optical networks (named by 51 percent).
Respondents were not as enthusiastic, however, about the chances that a "hydrogen economy" would become a reality in the near future. Seventy-six percent predicted it would be at least 2020 before it occurred. Within that group, 24 percent said it would happen sometime after 2020, and 15 percent said it would never occur.
Survey respondents also acknowledged the slow speed at which utilities have moved to adopt new technologies. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said utilities would someday adopt outsourcing, but that it would occur at a very slow pace.
"Both the cable and wireless industries have outsourced about half of their billing and customer care activities, largely because the economics have been so compelling," said David Lincoln, Managing Director at EnerTech. "When we asked respondents if utilities would ever do the same, their answer was `definitely, yes,' but that adoption was occurring slowly."
When asked why utilities have been so slow to adopt energy management solutions like sophisticated monitoring, data collection, and equipment control and dispatch, 49 percent said the economics of the technology is not yet compelling enough for utilities. The same percentage predicted that the energy management market sector would remain fragmented for many years, with no clear and pronounced trend.
"This is a clear message to entrepreneurs and technology developers," said Lincoln. "It's not enough to just build the technology. Customers want complete solutions that address their business needs. Although the long-term value proposition is intuitive, the immediate focus must be based on real returns for each customer's specific business."
Forty-one percent of respondents said a serious energy crisis would accelerate utilities' adoption of energy management solutions.
The EnerTech Forum is an annual gathering of top-level utility and energy executives, entrepreneurs, management consultants and investment bankers. It is sponsored by EnerTech Capital (www.enertechcapital.com), a $290 million venture capital firm specializing in investment opportunities emerging from the deregulation and reshaping of the energy and telecommunications industries. EnerTech is headquartered in suburban Philadelphia.