Green Tech Seeks its 'Netscape Moment'

By Martin LaMonica in CNET News, March 3 2010

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.--If you're wondering what the next big thing in green tech will be, this is a good place to look.

The ARPA-E Summit, a conference designed to showcase potential breakthrough clean-energy technologies, started on Monday, attracting some 1,700 investors, entrepreneurs, and policymakers all vying to reinvent the energy infrastructure to be cleaner and more efficient.

Given the makeup of the group, the mood is optimistic that new technologies can shake up even the slow-moving energy business. At the conference, scientists and entrepreneurs showed off early-stage ideas, such as kinetic energy storage systems or methods for low-cost solar power.

At the same time, there's an undercurrent of concern. Attendees here appear convinced that clean energy industries--everything from algae fuels to efficient LED lighting--will be the engine of economic growth in the future. But they also know that it will be a competitive global race. And few of the experts here, it seems, believe that the U.S. is firing on all cylinders when it comes to converting to a cleaner energy system.

In addition to technology breakthroughs, the other key pieces to the puzzle--financing and a cohesive energy policy--need work before green tech can move from niche to mainstream, according to some of the speakers.

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