Derek Newberry

Biofuels and the BOP II: A Way Forward?

The debate that Rob touched on last week rages on: Are biofuels bad for the BOP?

An article on recaps some of the controversy.

Audeamus says the price hikes on staple crops will be temporary

President Lula claims biofuels are good for poor nations because it will allow them to become energy exporters.

The overall takeaway seems to be that there is no magical solution to our numerous energy problems – environmental issues, lack of access, clean energy costs, etc. No one source seems to have the potential to address all of the demands of a sustainable, pro-poor energy policy, at least from where our current technology stands. Future energy challenges are going to require a major investment in new research – what is the role of the private sector? I wanted to point out an interesting way forward mentioned briefly on peHUB. Kirk Washington laments that a broad based energy solution will have to come from the giants in the industry, the Exxons and the Shells – companies that are typically slow moving and averse to the kind of risky innovation we need to boost new clean energy solutions.

Kirk advocates a partnership approach where large corporations support venture capitalists in vetting clean energy startup companies for the best models. Once the “winners” have been picked, technology solutions that could work on a national or global level, the large companies incubate those business models and take their solutions to scale.

A partnership of VCs and multi-nationals supporting SMEs like Enersud and Electrocell sounds like a pretty good way to find the next big energy technology breakthrough while supporting small entrepreneurs. Thoughts?