Commentary: Green energy firm Bloom finds funds in California legislature

The Sacramento BeeFebruary 22, 2011 

In the world of alternative power generation, Bloom Energy is golden. It certainly has figured out how to get some the public's green.

Time magazine declared the Silicon Valley company's fuel cell technology, called Bloom Boxes, to be one of the top inventions of 2010.

"Their invention? A little power plant-in-a-box they want to put literally in your backyard," CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl said in a glowing "60 Minutes" segment last February.

"The idea is to one day replace the big power plants and transmission line grid, the way the laptop moved in on the desktop, and cell phones supplanted land lines," Stahl said. "It has a lot of smart people believing and buzzing."

Perhaps Bloom Boxes will provide clean, reliable power while reducing our carbon footprint. That'd be marvelous. If it comes to pass, Bloom Energy might want to thank Californians for their generosity.

In 2009, as Bloom's scientists honed the technology, Bloom's lobbyists shaped legislation at the Capitol and a key decision at the California Public Utilities Commission.

By the end of 2010, the commission had granted Bloom payments and commitments totaling $210 million to subsidize its fuel cell technology, PUC officials said.

Bloom was so effective that some legislators worried there would be no money left for other companies that might have innovative technology. Earlier this month, Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey issued an order suspending the program.

In many ways, Bloom is a feel-good and hopeful story. It's also a story about how Bloom has navigated the system and tapped into other people's money.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.

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