Gallery: Green Design Predictions for 2013

Katie Fehrenbacher Editor at, Writer at

2012 was a mixed bag for technologies like clean energy, electric cars, biofuels, and energy efficiency. As I wrote in this GigaOM article, some of the best things to happen in 2012 for cleantech were that solar panels became really cheap, a few companies like Tesla and SolarCity ended the year strong, and companies developing energy analytics and software have done well. But at the same time, the term cleantech became very politicized in 2012, venture capitalist investors started to move away from investing in cleantech in 2012 (after losing money), and solar manufacturerselectric car makers and battery makers struggled – or even went bankrupt – in 2012 for a variety of reasons.

In 2013, the good and the bad will continue. The term cleantech will continue to go through a necessary rebranding, and will both be split into sectors – like solar or battery tech – and perhaps a new umbrella term will emerge. Now that President Obama will remain in office, U.S. support for clean energy will remain at the same level – and thankfully not go down – but won’t likely rise too much either.

Solar panel prices will remain low, which is great for companies and consumers buying solar panels for rooftops. The solar sector saw dramatic growth in 2012, and will continue to grow rapidly in 2012. But low solar prices will continue to make a difficult market for solar cell manufacturers. Expect to see more solar producers go bankrupt in 2013, as well as some difficult times for solar startups that have manufacturing innovations.

More than ever the world needs new technologies to manage global resources – like energy, water and food –  for a growing population that will reach 9 billion people by 2050. The planet also needs new and better solutions for a changing climate. Expect to see new ideas for more efficient food production and agriculture in 2013. The trends that led to a rise in cleantech development over the past few years will only continue, they just might not be called “cleantech” in 2013 and they might not be funded by Silicon Valley.

Bill McKibben Environmentalist, Green Journalist, President and Co-Founder of

I think there’s actually a chance 2013 will be a significant year in climate history — the year when the planet’s leaders actually ran out of excuses for their inaction. We’re seeing record temperatures, record melting, record storms, record everything: it’s clearly not the same world we thought it was even a few years ago. But we’re also finally seeing record dissent. In the U.S. for instance, students on more than 190 campuses are fighting to demand the divestment of stocks in fossil fuel companies. They’ve peeled back the layers of the onion — they’re not demanding new lightbulbs, they’re demanding systemic changes in the balance of power, trying to weaken the forces of the radical status quo, the ones systematically altering the chemistry of the atmosphere.

It’s a hard fight, of course, because those forces are led by the richest industry on earth — the oil, coal, and gas tycoons. So I don’t predict the outcome. Only that the choice for the powerful is going to get harder almost by the week, if we keep building the movements we need to build. We’re not as powerful as Exxon yet, but we’re closer than we used to be, which is the only good news I can think of.

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  1. triffids January 8, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    I enjoyed the predictions but there is a huge component missing. There seem to be no predictions that include addressing the biggest green thing – the existing plants and biodiversity and design that includes enhancing or protecting this biodiversity. The closest to even mentioning the word plant is the prediction by Ferry and Monoian concerning pre-industrial (low energy) ideas. Perhaps 2013 will not see the recognition that all life needs plants and that is why this basic green sustainability component is not listed.

  2. report from the heartland January 3, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Someone has to start evaluating everything by embodied energy and the impact on wildlife, plant and animal. A \”recycled\” material here, a bike there: nice, but unless we are made to pay the true cost of the way we live bye-bye birdies… and us.

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