I am always wary of making predictions, particularly when my recent attempts at crystal ball gazing include such classics as, "this Twitter nonsense will never take off", "Brown will be gone by the summer", and "Newcastle United are gonna get relegated". Actually, I got that last one right, but then again it was never in much doubt.
However, my patchy soothsaying record aside, it looks increasingly safe to say that the clean tech sector has already put the worst of the recession behind it.
Hailing the presence of green shoots is a high risk art and it should be noted that any number of variables could yet blow the fragile recovery off course. The Copenhagen talks could still collapse, undermining much of the political certainty many clean tech businesses have been built on; as yet unidentified banking scandals could kill off any signs of encouraging activity in the wider economy; and the chances are the price of carbon in the European Emission Trading Scheme could get worse before it gets better. But let us not be in any doubt - for the global clean tech sector the recovery is now underway.
The most compelling evidence for this optimistic outlook comes in the form of the recent figures from Dow Jones VentureSource showing that global venture capital investment in clean technology rose 73 per cent during the second quarter of the year, to $572m across 48 deals.
It might still be well down on the bumper investment levels recorded during 2008, but it still marks a dramatic recovery on the first three months of the year and provides a good gauge of the confidence flowing back into the sector.
It's worth remembering that venture capitalists are not exactly well known for their refined sense of sentiment. These guys (and they are almost invariably guys, but that's a whole other story) are all about making money and the fact that after a chastening year they are flocking back to the clean tech sector rather than more established industries suggests the optimistic predictions for the industry that were commonplace prior to last summer have not lost any of their resonance during the downturn.
Meanwhile, the green shoots in the investment sector are being mirrored in other parts of the clean tech ecosystem.
The Obama administration's approval ratings might be enduring the inevitable journey back from deity to mere mortal, but the president still deserves considerable kudos for the breakneck speed with which the multi billion dollar stimulus package has been pumped into the low carbon economy. While on this side of the Atlantic the government has finally backed up its always impressive rhetoric with some workable financial support mechanisms, not least in the form of the £1bn in new financing now on offer to wind farm developers.
Even some of the potential dark clouds that dot the horizon for the wider economy could provide a boost to the clean tech sector.
Fears that oil prices will soar as demand increases might spell bad news for motorists and carbon intensive businesses, but it is only good news for low carbon technologies that look ever more attractive each time the price of a barrel of oil rises.
Similarly, each time Republicans in the US argue that climate change legislation and the shift to renewables will lead to higher energy costs they only serve to remind astute business executives that the best way to insulate yourself against rising energy bills and volatile fossil fuel prices is to cut energy use and identify a diverse mix of fuel supplies.
Even concerns that the recovery will be undermined by future high levels of national debt and public sector spending cuts are unlikely to bother clean tech execs. In the UK, the current political debate is dominated by talk of government spending cuts, and yet proposals for electrified and high speed rail links, the world's largest tidal energy project, increased support for electric cars, and a huge expansion in offshore wind energy are still gaining support across the political spectrum. The transition to a low carbon is a top priority for most governments and as such clean tech firms know that spending on green infrastructure projects will be protected almost regardless of how tight public finances get.
Unfortunately, the clean tech recovery will not be a case of a rising tide lifting all ships. It might not seem like it given this week's announcements of multi-billion pound bankers' bonuses, but the world has changed in the past year. Investors and customers will increasingly demand technically proven, commercially viable green products, and it is the more mature firms that have already made the transition from development to delivery who are most likely to prosper during the recovery.
Equally, with any recovery in consumer confidence still six months off at best those clean tech firms focused on the low carbon infrastructure projects beloved of governments are more likely to lead the recovery than the firms with the latest green gadgets.
But all in all the outlook for the global clean tech sector during the second half of 2009 and the whole of 2010 looks pretty bright. Or at the very least, it looks a damn sight brighter than it does for Newcastle United.
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