Could alternative energy spark the next high-tech boom?
Alternative energy sources could rival the Internet boom of the ‘90s in terms of investment opportunities and entrepreneurial innovation, says Andrew Beebe, president of Energy Innovations. “It has been the technology of tomorrow every day for the past 20 years,” jokes Beebe, who says alternative energy represents an even more exciting opportunity than Internet technologies. “First of all, this is a business in which you’re making products. It’s a very tangible business with revenues that are relatively easy to track, unlike many of the Internet companies that sprouted up in the 1990s.” But that doesn’t mean it’s risk-free—as alternative energy development goes more high-tech, companies require more capital and investors more risk tolerance, says Charles Williamson, chairman and CEO of Unocal Corp. “I can’t think of an industry where more complex commercial and technical issues come into play, and the industry is becoming much more high-tech, which means that energy businesses and investors alike are forced to make even bigger bets than they have historically.” Williamson predicts that “unconventional energy resources [coal bed methane, oil sands, and deepwater oil and gas”> will become the conventional resources of the future. Natural gas will become an increasingly important part of the energy mix over the next several years, supplying about 25% of the world’s energy needs by the year 2020.”