It is hard to predict when green energy technologies such as solar, wind and biofuel will be cheaper than oil and coal.
But when they are, watch out. “We will fundamentally reinvent the infrastructure of the world,” says top clean-tech venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. “This is about changing assumptions.”
Khosla, who was interviewed at the GreenNet conference in San Francisco, said that once the cost of green energy is competitive with fossil fuels, Wall Street financiers will pour money into projects, eager for big returns. The reinvention of the infrastructure will take place over 10 to 15 years, he said.
Khosla defended the investment portfolio he’s accumulated since turning his attention to green tech about five years ago. He admitted he hasn’t yet made money with clean-tech start-ups.
But he vowed, just like the Wall Street moneymen, he would eventually rake in big bucks – green from green, you might say. “I’m pretty confident we will,” he said. Already the book value of the portfolio – an estimate of its market value – is higher than the amount of money his firm, Khosla Ventures, invested.
Earlier this month, Amyris Biotechnologies, one of his biofuels firms, filed to go public. It should be a success, Khosla said. “We will make more money with this than we invested so far.”
He’s equally confident about his other companies. Half will bring positive returns to Khosla Ventures, he predicted, a high hit rate for a venture fund.
So what technologies does Khosla see as ripe for investment? LED lighting is attractive with breakthroughs possible, he said. Clean coal is another area he is investigating.