1). Tesla remains (mostly) on track and is one of the last standing: Tesla hit its goal to launch its second electric sedan the Model S in the Summer of 2012, and reservations have remained high throughout the year. The introduction of the car was met with rave reviews, and towards the end of the year the car won Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award, making it the first electric car to do so. While Tesla did assemble and ship some of those cars more slowly than expected, the company remains on track with its slightly lowered estimates. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even tweeted recently that the company has now become cash flow positive.
In comparison, a lot of other electric car makers, and electric vehicle parts makers, struggled in 2012. A123, which supplies batteries for electric cars, declared bankruptcy, while sales of GM’s Volt and Nissan’s LEAF in the U.S. are lower than expected.
2). Google put almost a billion dollars into clean power: Even though Google isn’t a power provider or utility, the search engine giant invested almost a billion dollars ($990 million) into clean power projects. Google is doing this because it wants to power its data centers with clean power, but most solar and wind are more expensive than fossil fuel power right now.
Last year Google shut down its Google.org-sponsored RE<C project, and many saw this as a sign that Google was moving away from its clean power commitments. However, just this week, Google announced that it has hired energy innovation wiz Arun Majumdar — the former ARPA-E program director — to work on Google.org’s energy research strategy. Expect to see some interesting energy innovation outta Google in 2013.
3). Rock bottom solar prices: Super cheap solar panels might have caused problems for solar manufacturers, but for companies and home-owners that want to put solar panels on their roofs, low cost panels are leading to an unprecedented amount of new solar installations. The super cheap panels has been leading to solar installers doing well, and SolarCity had a successful IPO just last week.
4). Clean Web, Green IT, digital green, or whatever you want to call it: It’s become very clear that investing in capital-intensive cleantech manufacturing technologies is a lot harder for most investors, than investing in software, computing, mobile and the web. Which is why new phrases called Clean Web, and digital green, have emerged to explain startups and big companies that use digital technology to address resource constraints like energy, water and food. See photo below of investor Sunil Paul talking about Clean Web back at Green:Net 2011 (our conference focused on this topic).