Australian Clean Coal Technologies

This week i’d thought i’d throw some light on Australian Clean Coal Technologies – the economic and funding environment and a couple of Australian companies. Australia has a significant vested interest in clean coal technologies with funding and technology development occurring around the country. The vested interest is due to Australia having large coal resources and more importantly coal is a major export earner for Australia and accounts for around 80% of Australia’s total energy generation. The full stats are below.

The energy debate in Australia shifts from nuclear, clean coal and renewables with developments on all fronts. Its worth noting the funding environment for clean coal technologies in Australia as well, with support at from industry and at the state and federal government level.

The major areas of technology development are in the areas of:

  • Coal Seam Gas & Methane Capture
  • Coal pre-processing & storage (demoisturisation, pelletisation)
  • Coal gasification and turbine tech
  • C02 separation & flue-gas cleaning
  • C02 sequestration

Some of the companies and technologies that have recently been in the press have been the pre-processing technologies:

LaTrobe Lignite Developments Pty Ltd (LLD) has patented technology for the drying of Brown Coal to levels of 15% moisture content for use in low emission power generation. The low temperature evaporation tech can be achieved using waste heat available from electricity generation. The process yields a high quality thermal coal called PacCarb®. This can achieve increased boiler performance, higher outputs, and greatly reduced greenhouse emissions. LLD are seeking partners and A$400million to scale up from a demonstration plant to a 100MW Large Scale Demonstration Plant.

Another company the Binderless Coal Briquetting Company, asubsidaryy of White Energy Technology Limited, is commercialising the efforts of CSIRO researchers who have been the first to develop a binderless coal briquetting process. According to the company website “Binderless briquettes are briquettes formed from either bituminous or sub-bituminous coals that are held together by the natural bonding mechanisms in coal. They do not require any of the binders normally used to briquette coal which substantially reduces the production cost.”

Stats from Australian Coal Association and Energy Information Administration

“Australia has more than 74 billion tonnes of identified black coal reserves which is enough to last well over 200 years at current rates of production”

“Australia is the worlds largest exporter of coal 2002, Australian coal producers shipped 225 million tons of coal to international consumers and consumed another 160 million tons (both hard coal and lignite) domestically, primarily for electricity generation. Coal-fired power plants accounted for 78 percent of Australia’’s total electricity generation in 2002, a level that is projected to be maintained over the forecast horizon”

To put this in perspective worldwide “although coal deposits are widely distributed, 57 percent of the world’’s recoverable reserves are located in three countries: the United States (27 percent), Russia (17 percent), and China (13 percent)”

BP Solar – Closing the “Grid Parity Gap”

Wednesday April 5, 2006

Last week I wrote a bit about BP Solar’s advertising and branding – it’s part of the marketing story, but definitely only part. Strategy is key.

BP Solar (North America) employs strategic marketing (though, how BP’s Alternative Energy marketing group which looks to be out of Houston, and BP Solar’s marketing in Frederick, as well as BP Solar’s overseas marketing groups work together is a curiosity). Vivienne Cox, BP’s Executive VP of Gas, Power & Renewables, said in November, and Karen Sterling of BP Solar’s North American marketing and communication’s group repeated to me, BP Solar’s goal is to drive solar to grid-parity – in other words, to make PV equal in cost to grid power for homeowners and businesses and to make it more widely available. That, says Sterling, is when solar will be attractive to more people.

BP Solar began collaborating with The Home Depot® in October 2004 to target the residential sector and with SunEdison to target the commercial and business sectors (like big box retailers) within select geographic markets. (SunEdison is working with Goldman Sachs, the investment house, and other financing institutions.) Grid-tied residential, commercial and business segments are BP Solar’s focus (off-grid, remote applications, not so much.) Recently, BP Solar engaged with Treasure Homes in California, leveraging the builder channel. (Unlike other cleantech marketers, BP Solar chooses to bypass, or has the fortune of not needing, the electric utility channel, going directly to consumers. That’s a good move – and another topic for another day.) BP Solar (NA) targets markets that offer the biggest solar incentives: California, New Jersey and Long Island. As for where to best leverage product in other markets, Sterling notes, “The marketplace changes, and it hasn’t been defined completely.”

The value propositions for solar PV, however, have been. To residential customers, PV is: clean, reliable, silent, pollution-free power that protects customers from the volatility of utility power…and “beautiful” deep blue, dark-framed panels. (BP did not ignore the issue of aesthetics.) BP Solar offers business and commercial customers roof systems, ground systems for large open areas, canopy systems for parking areas and walkways and building integrated PV – BIPV – in the form of rooftop tiles. The value propositions are: energy savings and other financial benefits – cost savings, protection against rising energy prices, energy efficiencies, revenue for ‘green attributes of solar (that is, renewable energy credits), and government incentives – as well as leadership in environmental stewardship. Commercial solar is (still!) emissions-free, silent and unobtrusive.

BP Solar has trademarked its programs (BP Solar Home Solutions™, BP Energy Solutions™, EnergyMax™). It is selecting qualified professional installers. Online customer support offers quotes and FAQs (though more technical information, similar to those put together by Xantrex, the inverter manufacturer, would be helpful.) Sponsorships include the BP Solar Neighbors Program™ and the Solar Decathlon (which Jeff Lyng’s team from the University of Colorado-Boulder has twice won which makes those of us in Colorado – and particularly those of us who supported passage of Colorado’s RPS – very proud.)

Whatever one might think of BP (the huge oil company, greenwashing), it is launching solar PV into the mainstream, across the collective radar screen – recognizing that clean energy is a good strategic investment for the company and its investors. In the Ceres recent sustainability investor report (“2006 Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection”), BP scored very high in the oil/gas sector. And that’s great.

It would also be great if smaller players in this market could avail themselves of deep pockets, international brand name recognition and market share, too. Short of that, I’m hoping that BP Solar’s “continued innovation and technology gains across the solar value chain” will include next-generation semiconductor technologies to which BP can apply its ample marketing muscle – and Jeff Lyng and his team can incorporate into future Solar Decathlons!

US Cleantech IPO Filings 2006: VeraSun – Analysis of an Upcoming Ethanol IPO

Nasdaq and the US stock exchanges are not dead for cleantech IPO filings, despite the emergence of the AIM exchange in London as the place to list for cleantech, energy tech and environmental companies.

We’ve had four cleantech filings in the US this year so far, in solar, water, and 2 in ethanol.
  • Ascent Solar Technologies, Inc.
  • Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, Inc.
  • Basin Water, Inc.
  • VeraSun Energy Corporation
I ‘m going to do a blog column on each of them in the coming weeks, so let’s start with VeraSun. You can read their SEC filing here.

VeraSun Energy Corporation (NYSE: VSE Proposed) – Filed for a $150 mm IPO on March 30. Morgan Stanley & Lehman Brothers are the lead underwriters. With $236 mm in revenues and $29. 9 mm in EBITDA in 2005, the company claims to be the 2nd largest ethanol producer in the US. VeraSun has two plants operating, Aurora, SD, a 120 mm g/yr plant, and Fort Dodge, IA, a 110 mm g/yr plant that started in late 2005. They are in construction on another 110 mm g/yr plant in Charles City, IA, and plan to build two more with the proceeds from the IPO. They are targeting 560 mm g/yr by 2008.

Their process, like most, is a corn fermentation/distallation process. They use a dry milling process, with natural gas as the fuel source and they claim on their website 2.8 gallons of ethanol + 18 lbs of distillers grain per bushel of corn.

Process summary from VeraSun’s prospectus:
“1. In the dry-mill ethanol process, the corn kernels are first ground into a flour, or “meal,” and mixed with water in cookers to form a slurry, called “mash.”
2. In the cooking system, the action of heat liquefies the starch in the corn and enzymes are added to break down the starch to fermentable sugars.
3. The cooked mash is then cooled and pumped to the fermenters where yeast is added. The action of the yeast converts the sugars in the mash into ethanol.
4. The fermented mash is pumped to the distillation system where the ethanol is separated from the non-fermentable solids (the stillage), and water is removed to concentrate the ethanol to a strength of 190-proof (95% ethanol).
5. The ethanol is further concentrated in a molecular sieve dehydrator to a strength of 200-proof (99+% ethanol), to produce fuel-grade ethanol which is then denatured (rendered unfit for human consumption) with gasoline and transferred to storage tanks.
6. The stillage from the distillation system is sent through a centrifuge that separates the coarse grain from the solubles. The solubles are then concentrated in an evaporator system. The resulting material, condensed distillers solubles or “syrup,” is mixed with the coarse grain from the centrifuge and then dried to produce dried distillers grains with solubles, a high quality, nutritious livestock feed. Some of the distillers grains may bypass the final drying stage and be sold as wet distillers grains with solubles.”

They are also selling a branded E85 fuel called VE85 in the Midwest, and have partnered with Ford, as well as GM as part of its Live Green Go Yellow marketing campaign, to promote ethanol fuels. Interesting though it is, the VE85 product accounts for well less than 1/2 a percent of current revenues.

Another tidbit, it appears that Aventine, another ethanol company which has also filed to go public this year, is the marketer/buyer of most of VeraSun’s ethanol production, despite being a competitor producing ethanol from its own plants. VeraSun has stated its intentions to go direct in 2007. Also, the company issued bonds to build its new Charles City facility, and at $210 mm in debt, is levered a serious 9.5x Debt/EBITDA until the new facilities come on line. EBITDA and Gross Margins were both down in 2005 compared to previous year, about half driven by squeezed margins in part from higher average natural gas prices, and in part from increasing SG&A from the expansions. The high current leverage has kept net income at a breakeven level for 2005.

By my back of the envelope calculation from the SEC filings, 2006, based on a full year’s operations from both facilities, an 85% capacity factor, $1.80/ gallon in revenues (ethanol + distiller’s grain), and $0.25-35/gal in EBITDA (in line with their range todate, would likely be between $350 mm in revenues and $49 – $68 mm in EBITDA, bringing leverage down to a more manageable 3-4.5x Debt/EBITDA range. in 2007/2008 with a target of at $520 mm revenue, $72-$101 mm in EBITDA on an annualized pro forma basis for the Charles City plant coming on line (estimated as 3Q 07). Pro forma for the in planning Welcome and NW Iowa plants, the numbers would be $856 mm revenues, $119-$167 mm in EBITDA.

I have not had a chance to delve into the hedging strategies. And keep in mind that those are good EBITDA margins for a refiner, and I’d expect them to get beaten down into the high single digits to low double digits like the oil industry as the industry matures. Keep in mind also that last year the company made the vast majority of its gross margin in just 1 quarter out of 4. So expect some volatility.

I then went and did a back of the envelope valuation based on this analysis.
The 12/31/05 book value /share is $3.05. So we can start there.

A quick estimate of Yr 3 Net Income, using the assumptions above, a 32 year average depreciation on assets at $1,250/ gallon installed cost x rated capacity, requirement of another $115 mm in debt to complete the build out with a 10% average interest rate, and a 39% tax rate, got a net income of between $40 and $70 mm in Yr 3.

The current valuation multiples for oil & gas refining companies are 11x EPS and 5.5x EBITDA. Using those numbers with no discount, I calculated a 2009 estimated value range after VeraSun is fully built up, and discounted that back at a 10% WACC to get a post-IPO valuation that ranged between $281 and $568 mm in equity valuation. After subtracting the $150 mm IPO raise, that leaves a per share range of c. $2.77-$8.82, depending on whether you believe the $0.25/gallon EBITDA margins or the $0.35 ones. We’ll see what the underwriters come up with. I’ll be particularly interested in what operating margin assumptions and what P/E they are forecasting. Given how hot the ethanol sector is right now, I’d expect this float to go out at the high end of my range, and probably trade well, but at the end of the day, it is a refiner, not a tech company.

Black and Green: Strange Bedfellows

Most environmentalists have a knee-jerk wretching reaction to coal. In a word, coal is “dirty”. Uncontrolled, burning coal results in about twice the carbon emissions as burning natural gas — not to mention all of the other nasties (sulfur dioxide, NOx, particulates, mercury, etc.).

So imagine my surprise when I met the other day with Kurt Waltzer, a consultant who works for the Ohio Environmental Council, who showed me a report on how coal was basically the ONLY answer for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The OEC recently completed a study entitled the Ohio Climate Road Map, which paints a detailed picture of how Ohio could take actions in the coming decades to stabilize the climate. Buried in the report (page 18 to be exact) is an innocuous looking chart that shows alternative climate mitigation strategies for the electric sector. Closer examination reveals the punchline: if a significant reduction in CO2 emissions from powerplants is truly required, the other emission reduction strategies often touted by environmentalists — efficiency, cogen, renewables — ain’t gonna get us there on their own. To achieve the required reductions, we need coal: gasified coal with sequestration.

In other meetings last week with coal interests, I am seeing evidence that coal supporters are beginning to get it: that the combination of improved technology AND tightened environmental stringency (along with the fact of depleting oil/gas resources) are strong tailwind forces at their back, and it may well be very advantageous for them to join the ride.

So coal may be moving towards environmentalism, and environmentalists may be moving towards coal. I’m reminded of the line from “Ghost Busters”: “Dogs and cats living together — mass hysteria!”

Superconducting Dynamic Synchronous Condenser Seeks to Enter FACTS Marketplace

FACTS is seen as key to expanding the integration of wind power, solar, and other generation sources to the grid under anticipated stricter power quality/reliability regulations. American Superconductor (AMSC) hopes its SuperVAR dynamic synchronous condenser—effectively a superconducting motor designed to provide reactive power (VARs)—will succeed in carving a niche in some portion of the FACTS market (Volume 20, Number 06 of Superconductor Week).

If development of the SuperVAR machine continues as hoped, it may offer advantages over competing VAR solutions. Mike Ingram, Senior Manager of Transmission Technologies at the Tennessee Valley Authority, believes FACTS devices and alternate technologies such as STATCOM and SVC are the two solutions that will compete most closely with the AMSC’s SuperVAR machine.

David Eromon, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electronics, Computer, and Information Technology at North Carolina A&T State University, believes a number of factors will impact the demand for VAR devices, including trends in use of distributed energy, including renewable energy generation. Eromon also believes that energy quality and reliability standards which may emerge as a result of the U.S. Energy Policy Act could potentially help spur this growth.

Regardless of their usefulness, success in selling VAR solutions will depend to some extent on educating the customer on their usefulness. “There is a lack of awareness with engineers at utilities, due in some part to the dynamic nature of our utility grid these days,” commented Kevin Dennis, Manager for North America, Advanced Power Electronics at ABB. “Wind farms are well aware of the need for VARs. But among industrial users and distribution utilities, the amount of knowledge out there varies greatly. Some people running plants still do not know what VAR solutions are, or where they should go.”

In one respect, AMSC is well-positioned to tackle the VAR market’s need for education: As one of the world’s leading developers of high temperature superconductors for power applications, AMSC is already acting in the capacity of one of the industry’s most vocal educators for advanced power solutions and their underlying technologies.

Mark Bitterman, Executive Editor, Superconductor Week

Is the Future of Solar in Space?

My attention was caught by a recent news story about the Space Island Group, which intends to build commercial space stations for a multitude of purposes, including the manufacture of solar power satellites (SPS). The article credited SIG with the intent to supply half the world’s energy needs by capturing the sun’s power in space and beaming it to the Earths’ surface using microwaves. The article inferred that the Group believes it can capture a $1 trillion share (in today’s terms) for an initial development and launch investment of $10 billion. Given that energy demand is forecast to increase by perhaps 60% by 2030, this is not only an extremely ambitious technical target and an incredible commercial ambition. Just how realistic is the ambition and how likely are they to succeed?

First a little background on SPS, which is really necessary if we are to put the goals in context:

• An SPS installation would consist of a huge PV array in geostationary orbit linked to a microwave transmitter assembly aimed at a large area receiving antenna on Earth.

• The attractions of such an arrangement include the fact that the array would be in sunlight over 99% of the time. The SPS would be in Earth’s shadow on only a few days at the spring and fall equinoxes and, even then, for a maximum of an hour and a half late at night when power demands are at their lowest.

• The idea of beaming energy to Earth via satellite was first proposed by Peter Glaser in 1968 who was later awarded a patent. The idea itself makes sense!

• There have been investigations of the concept almost continually since then by almost every respectable authority, including the US DOE, NASA, NRC as well as the European and Japanese and these are ongoing.

So, if it has technical merit, what are the problems?

• The PV array would be much larger than any assembled yet on Earth. A 5GW array is often discussed. I we could buy this for $3/watt – which is well below current factory gate module prices – this would imply a current cost of $15 billion for the modules alone in this array. Granted mass production on this scale will make costs much lower and some thin film companies are predicting eventual system costs of $1/watt.

• Several factors may mitigate against this though:

o There are two extreme manufacturing options: manufacture the panels one Earth and ransport them into space: manufacture the systems in space from materials either obtained in space or transported from Earth.

o Current space launch rates (Shuttle) run between $3,000 and $5,000 per pound ($6,600/kg and $11,000/kg).

o To give an idea of the scale of the problem, assuming a typical solar panel mass of 20 kg per kilowatt, and without considering the mass of the support structure, antenna or significant mass reduction of focusing mirrors, a 5 GW power station would weigh about 100,000 metric tons.

o This is excessive though, as a space solar-panel would not need to support its own weight, and would not be subject to earth’s corrosive atmosphere. Very lightweight designs might achieve 1 kg/kW, or 5000 metric tons for a 5 GW station.

o This would be the equivalent of between 50 and 1000 launches to send the material to low earth orbit, where it would be turned into subassembly solar arrays, which then use ion-engine style rockets to move to geostationary orbit. With an estimated serial shuttle-based launch cost of $500 million to $800 million, total launch costs would range between $22 billion and $400 billion On top of this, would be the cost of large assembly areas in low Earth orbit and in geostationary orbit.

o Not all PV modules are suitable for space use and those most extensively tested – based on triple junction gallium arsenide cells – are much more expensive than silicon or CIGS thin film.

o The cost of the transmitter and receiving antennae will be additional to the array cost. For 5GW system using 2.45GHz radiation, a transmitter might have a diameter of 1km – in this case the receiving antennae would need to have a diameter of over 10km. Although these might be simple structures they will not be cheap!

o But let’s be optimistic – unreasonably so! Let’s assume that the panels and electronics can be manufactured for $1/watt, that transportation costs are at the low end of the estimates ($22 billion), and the antennas add only $1/watt

o This would give a total cost for a single 5GW array of $32 billion – roughly $6.40/watt, which I less than the current cost of terrestrial systems

• This 5 GW system would generate almost 40TWh/year, worth almost $2 billion at 5 cents per watt. A long payback!

• The current World electricity demand is about 1500 TWh/year and may grow to 20,000TWh/yr in 2010 and 30,000 TWh/yr in 2030. This single 5GW installation would contribute less than less than 2% of the world’s needs in 2010

I have not even tried to address seriously the problems of satisfying governments and the populace that they are not about to be “microwaved” should such a project go ahead. In truth, my perception is that there is little or no evidence that the systems as envisaged would posed any hazard to man or animal and launch costs will depend dramatically on the designed structures and the manufacturing methods. However, I see these are refinements that are not needed to decide it the postulate makes sense: to quote from the article which originally intrigues me:

“SIG is currently pursuing a $200 billion, 20-year energy purchase contract from India and/or China this year, 5% of which will cover all of SIG’s development and early launch costs. SIG’s target is to supply half the world’s electricity generation and distribution, currently a $2 trillion annual market.”

Now I have no idea what SIG envisage their “development and early launch costs “ to include, but I am forced to conclude that, realistically, $10 billion will not even cover the cost of deploying one 5GW system and see little chance that they will capture 50% of the demand in any realistic timeframe.

This all sounds as if I am completely turned off by the idea, but the opposite is true! It would need only 50 of these “power stations” to satisfy global demand in 2010 and the concept of producing vast amounts of energy in space and “beaming” the power, safely and economically, to where it is needed, is a dream worth aspiring to. I just don’t think we are going to get there in my lifetime!

Renewable Energy’s Mainstream Moves

In an effort to create what has come to be understood as a diversified energy portfolio, renewable energy has become a key component to our energy future. The market can certainly be evaluated based on increases in industry participants, growing adoption rates, larger revenue levels, international expansion and even by the growing number of renewable / clean energy companies entering the public market, however there are other perspectives to consider.

In addition to market data, evidence of renewable and clean energy mainstream acceptance is seen all around us. Take a look and you should notice a growing number of renewable and clean energy conferences, events that appear to be gaining momentum in terms of credibility, participation and sponsorship as more and more companies are embracing this industry in some capacity as part of their business model, whether that be from a cost cutting or image standpoint, or from the perspective that this industry offers viable business opportunities.

Another indicator comes from the increased blog coverage of renewable energy, which has acted as a forum for the passionate, for the opportunist and also the average day person who has come to understand the role that such technologies will undoubtedly play in their lives.If these signs are not enough one has to only turn the television on to networks such as CNBC to understand the surge in coverage of the renewable energy industry. For example CNBC has been running a new segment entitled Going Green that has been reviewing a wide range of renewable energy technologies. Today’s segment saw an interview piece with Dr. Robert Wilder, CEO & Founder of Wildershares, LLC and Manager of the WilderHill Clean Energy Index, an ongoing member of the (RES) Online Industry Roundtable and frequent participant in RES industry articles, on market opportunities. This exposure is an example of the expanded coverage that industry experts such as Dr. Wilder are receiving, now more than ever, as renewables have become a part of today’s and tomorrow’s energy discussion.

As oil prices continue along their current path, our road towards even higher energy costs seems inevitable, taking us closer and closer towards alternatives to help resolve the impacts that years of living in a fossil fuel economy have created. This direction will in turn drive further innovation and adoption of renewable energy technology to the point where discussions such as this on ‘mainstream acceptance’ will be a thing of the past.

BP Solar launches beyond marketing 101

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Periodically, I cull a pile of materials on sustainable technologies; a few articles survive the purging like Fortune’s 2004 article, “Inside the Head of BP: He doesn’t like red meat. He thinks green. What is John Browne doing running the world’s largest oil company?”

He’s marketing clean energy…among other things.

A friend recently landed a job with BP Solar (formerly Solarex) in Frederick, Maryland, so the company has been on my mind. (I had approached Solarex in 1995 about working for it – prior to its purchase by Enron and Amoco – and was told by a worried marketing executive that it might not survive dwindling subsidies. What a difference a decade makes.)

BP Solar sells crystalline-based photovoltaics (PV); in 2002 it ceased manufacturing thin-film PV, saying “while the technology continues to show promise, lack of material demand and present economics do not allow for continued investment.” Thin-film PV can use semiconductor materials other than silicon. Paradoxically, silicon, on which crystalline-based PV depends, is in short supply; the costs of silicon are going up; demand for PV panels is rising – all of which is increasing end-product costs (and contradicts ‘economies of scale.’ – see “Clean-Energy Trends 2006.”)

Marketing is pivotal to market adoption, but there are some things marketing just can’t control – like rising raw materials costs, product availability, changing regulations and incentives and (all too often) corporate business strategy. Marketing can, however, enhance business development via sponsorships, partnerships, affiliations and channels, and it can direct strategic branding, product placement and messaging.

Emerging from the monopoly utility sector, where marketing is something of a misnomer, it’s a pleasure, for me, to see companies like BP Solar employ great strategic marketing. (I do get pulled back…Claritas and ESource sponsored a WebEx seminar this week on the strategic marketing of utility green-pricing and demand-side management programs – a very utility-centric, but informative, hour that covered basic strategic marketing and implementation tactics: PRIZM® cluster segmentation, channels, customer acquisition costs, customer loyalty, retention and churn, integrated marketing communications, affinity marketing…and ‘version’ messaging, that is, tailoring messages to different segments.)

Ah, yes, messaging. On that topic, Amely Greeven, a marketing consultant guru, scoffed at clean energy marketing in a 2002 article by Amanda Griscom of Grist Magazine.

“Mainstream consumers simply aren’t turned on by an industry associated with smiling suns, glittering purple-panel roofscapes, and purist, hippy-dippy lifestyles…Like it or not, the face of ‘green’ needs a makeover. It needs a marketing strategy that’s edgy and of-the-moment, rather than lost in a ’70s sensibility. Young celebrity spokespeople, for one thing, could go a long way to push this fringe movement into the mainstream.”

(Did you just cringe at ‘fringe’? I did, but also am of the mind that the ‘green’ market segment – people whose concerns about climate change, resource depletion and the environment influence their purchases – is finite, and that the term itself turns off buyers with a block against anything remotely ‘tree-huggie.” But that’s a topic for another day.)

Griscom wrote that BP ‘got it’ in 2002 with a hip branding campaign (BP on the Street) created by Ogilvy & Mather (big corporations turn to big agencies). You’ve seen these ads about new energy and climate change. If not, it’s time to get out more. They are ubiquitous. (“And they’re everywhere, too!” a friend would joke.) The BP branding campaign includes tv and print, point-of-sale materials and even an online calculator for your ‘carbon footprint.’

BP Solar marketing today?

On November 29, 2005, BP announced formation of an Alternative Energy unit and expansion of the Frederick (crystalline-based PV) manufacturing plant. (Joel Makower, a contributor to the cleantechblog, wrote about the announcement, ‘It’s a Start.’) A webcast of that day includes a speech by US Congressman Roscoe Bartlett who noted the importance of job creation for Maryland – but mostly he spoke on population growth and ‘peaking oil.’ Vivienne Cox, BP’s Executive VP of Gas, Power & Renewables, addressed marketing:

“When complete, these steps will effect the doubling of BP’s global solar manufacturing capacity. The success of solar power is not just dependent on the right manufacturing strategy of course. It also requires world class marketing to attract energy consumers to the merits of and access to solar power. [italics mine] … This growth plan will ensure BP Alternative Energy is one of the world’s top 3 solar manufacturers and marketers. And we aim to be a leader in the solar industry in the drive to reduce the total installed costs of providing solar energy to levels at which it can compete strongly with oil, gas, coal and nuclear in the generation of electricity – something that is possible today in some markets (California peak, Japan, Hawaii). This is possible through continued innovation and technology gains across the solar value chain, including lower cost panels, higher efficiency cells, and more productive ‘total system’ installations. Over the next 5 years we see another 30-40% total system cost per watt improvement which will close the ‘grid parity’ gap considerably in many markets.”

What is BP Solar’s marketing strategy? I’ll be writing about it here next week.