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IKEA invests big in cleantech, looks to bring products, including solar panels, to stores over next few years

The kitsch Swedish furniture retail chain IKEA has announced big plans to go green.  The chain is looking to make a new name for itself, investing €50M on "cleantech" startups over the next five years.

The new unit, IKEA GreenTech, is channeling its efforts in five directions:  solar panels, alternative light sources, product materials, energy efficiency, and water saving and purification.  The unit will only invest in startups the can guarantee delivery of a product within a four to five year window, as IKEA's ultimate intention is not purely altruism, but rather primarily to sell greentech.

Johan Stenebo, managing director of IKEA GreenTech states, "We're already talking to companies."

He hopes to have his unit placing its first investments by the end of the year.  He states, "That's certainly our aim to make happen."

Mr. Stenebo says the products will have to meet IKEA's high standards.  He explains, "Really low prices, and they should be of very good quality. That's the only thing we look at, we would never look at anything else, we would discard anything else that doesn't fall into those boundaries, whether it's home furnishings or it's greentech products."

IKEA hopes to form partnerships with five to ten companies, with 5 or 6 of the partnerships being formed over the next 2 years.  It believes that it will have its first products on the market within 3 to 4 years.  IKEA wants to keep its portfolio small so it can guarantee quality and that products make deadlines.

Mr. Stenebo adds, "We will be very active on the boards of these companies.  I think we can contribute somewhat in terms of commercializing the product they are developing, and then, obviously, distributing the product as well."

Distribution power is definitely something IKEA brings to the table.  It has 270 stores in 35 countries, and half a billion customers per year.  The company not only creates its own furniture, it also invented flat packing of furniture to reduce costs.  It works with 1,300 suppliers in more than 50 countries.  Since its 1943 birth in Sweden, IKEA has blossomed to have more than 118,000 employees. 

The GreenTech unit is various small in comparison with the company as a whole, but has big responsibilities.  Formed eight months ago and headquartered in Lund, in southern Sweden, the unit currently only has four employees.  Mr. Stenebo adds in, "Within one or two years I think we'll be between eight and 10."

One potential opportunity for green sales from IKEA outside the store is in its housing business.  IKEA manufactures entire homes, starting in Sweden in the 1990s. IKEA now sells homes in the U.K. -- pre-fab homes with plots of land -- to low income buyers.  The homes are already ecologically friendly, with renewable materials in the construction, and solar and geothermal for power and heat.  However production from the startups could yield lower costs or more advanced designs.

The first priority for IKEA is getting the products to market though.  Mr. Stenebo has already considered that some products might be better suited for different markets.  He explains, "It's quite natural that, for instance, solar panels are more interesting to Spaniards and Californians and so forth than they would be to Swedes."

He concludes by outlining where the investments will be made and the outline for the future of the project, stating, "Initially, we will be looking more in Europe than anywhere else, but we do not have any geographical restrictions for our investments.  Once a company is up and running in five or seven years or something like that, and if we exit from that company, the money that we've earned in that investment will stay within the IKEA GreenTech fund."

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Solar & "Clean"?
By TomZ on 8/8/2008 10:12:24 AM , Rating: 4
Solar panels are only "clean" if you completely ignore the manufacture of them. My suggestion: let's start looking at the big picture when we think about the environment, instead of just optimizing one part of a process at the expense of the others. Another example, hydrogen is not "clean" if it is produced by an energy-intensive process that involves burning fossil fuels.

In addition, new energy technologies need to operate with costs similar to those they displace. That is an important especially in a time of overall rising energy prices. We risk doing ourselves continued economic harm if we fail to work towards reducing energy costs.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 10:20:09 AM , Rating: 5
Hydrogen can "be clean" if you front load the electricity process with Nuclear, rather than Coal and Natural Gas. Nuclear and Hydrogen go hand in hand.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By 1frisbee1 on 8/8/08, Rating: -1
RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 10:34:02 AM , Rating: 4
Nuclear is less clean when you have meltdowns and new sources of dirty bombs.

*Breaks out FUD Blaster* BE GONE TROLL! This isn't The Soviet Union CIRCA 1986.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By TomZ on 8/8/2008 10:37:15 AM , Rating: 5
Looking at the history of nuclear power generation, not using it for fear of "meltdowns and new sources of dirty bombs" is not rational, especially when you look mainly at modern plant designs and waste handling.

In addition, your suggestion of lower energy production is not consistent with human needs. Specifically, lower power consumption is historically associated with lower population and/or less econonomic activity and resultant lower standard of living. People are generally not interested in these types of changes.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By JasonMick on 8/8/2008 10:37:27 AM , Rating: 2
I'm all for nuclear adoption in the U.S. The meltdown debate is stupid with modern reactors -- it just won't happen given modern safeguards. However, I do believe that the U.S. government should only allow the most modern designs to be accepted i.e. on level with those in France and Japan. There's no reason why our tech can't be advanced as theirs. Besides, that way much of the waste is reprocessed, so that problem is significantly lessened as well.

Nuclear is great -- look at France -- it has some of the best designs in the world and is able to get 80+ percent of its power from it.

However, what does worry me is third world countries like Brazil building nuclear reactors. First, there's the looser regulation which makes it more likely for nuclear materials to fall into terrorist hands. Secondly, they're adopting these aging designs that are the kinds that gave nuclear an undeservedly bad name in the first place. These designs are far more prone to leakages or meltdowns, particularly when poorly maintained as many of them are likely to be. This just isn't smart. As much as I hate to see the U.S. and Co. playing world police, I think this is a threat to both global health and security, and the G8 needs to take a greater regulatory role in these country's efforts.

Also, I think that it is wise to invest in a variety of sources. By all means build lots of nuclear plants, but that's no reason to give up on hydrogen and solar.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 10:44:37 AM , Rating: 2
Ironically Jason, France is using Modern U.S. reactor designs. It's developed by Mitsubishi. :(

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By JasonMick on 8/8/2008 10:55:07 AM , Rating: 4
Yea, that's sorta true except for the EPR (European Pressure Reactor) which is really sweet, but's not fully operational yet.

...Well Mitsubishi is Japanese. But I'm sure you're right in that a lot of the tech was designed here in the States. And GE designs a lot of Japan's advanced reactors. It's just disappointing that we don't have it implemented here. It doesn't really matter so much who designs it as who builds it :(

Build some sweet Gen. III reactors for the U.S. already!

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 10:59:48 AM , Rating: 2
EPR and Advanced PWR are based on the PWR which was designed and developed in the U.S. PWR is what the Navy uses, and what the majority of Worldwide reactors are based on. APWR and EPR are liek the next evolution of the PWR.

Still, yes I would like them to build the damn things here in the U.S. :(

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By erikejw on 8/9/2008 9:27:05 AM , Rating: 2
What happened to fusion research?
Must be the best tech if we got it to work.

Did it go down the drain when environmentalists who loves coal got their grip on nuclear and scared the masses?

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Murloc on 8/10/2008 6:07:27 AM , Rating: 2
uhm I think they're still thinking at it, but it's a slow thing............
I don't know if they decided where to build the prototype or not.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By JBird7986 on 8/8/2008 11:53:33 AM , Rating: 2
Gen. IV is the real answer...nuclear power which gives off hydrogen anyway.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By mvpx02 on 8/8/2008 10:51:41 AM , Rating: 2
While I share your fear, I don't think Brazil is a good example. Brazil is not a 3rd world country & has been moving into the top tier of countries in many ways (economy, population, technology, etc.).

Don't get me wrong, like every other country in the world, Brazil has plenty of its own problems (political corruption, poor distribution of wealth, etc.), but I can't say I'm more bothered by Brazilian nuclear technology than I am by countries like China or Korea.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By JasonMick on 8/8/2008 10:58:54 AM , Rating: 3
Brazil has plenty of its own problems (political corruption, poor distribution of wealth, etc.)

Don't you think this makes the whole nuclear proposition for Brazil a bit dangerous??

Anytime a local official can be paid off to cut corners with safety inspections or to "lose" some nuclear materials which happen to wind up in malicious hands seems like a major problem to me.

You can call it whatever you want -- third world or developing or whatever-- but the government instability down there makes nuclear a dangerous proposition. I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed it. They just need someone to make sure they're not doing things that could hurt themselves and other nations such as the U.S.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By mvpx02 on 8/8/2008 11:06:10 AM , Rating: 2
I couldn't agree more, but we all know what kind of uproar occurs (both American & International) every time USA plays world police (either on its own or via the UN).

But at least it appears that Brazil is trying to get it right:

They've not had problems with their first 2 nuclear power plants yet, I guess we can only continue hope for the best.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Kefner on 8/9/2008 12:19:08 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Kakao on 8/8/2008 1:06:13 PM , Rating: 2
but the government instability down there makes nuclear a dangerous proposition

Where did you get it from? Brazil has had a stable government since 1964 and its democracy is getting stronger each year.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By spluurfg on 8/8/2008 7:24:58 PM , Rating: 2
You can call it whatever you want -- third world or developing or whatever-- but the government instability down there makes nuclear a dangerous proposition.

Exactly what do you mean by the 'government instability'? Compared to R, I, and C, which do you think has the better regulatory and legal framework or has more corruption? Incidentally, R, I, and C don't just have nuclear power, but also nuclear weapons...

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Kakao on 8/8/2008 12:55:16 PM , Rating: 2
Brazil has always been totally open to international inspections and follows all rules and all the best practices recommended by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the scientific community.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By markitect on 8/8/2008 3:17:08 PM , Rating: 2
I'd first of all like to point out that their are large uranium deposits all over the world. Places like Kazakhstan, and the Czech Republic are far more likely to sell the uranium they pull straight out of the ground, then Brazil is to sell spend fuel. The Czech Republic is after all already famous for its black market,

Second Since the 50's reactors are designed to melt down in a self-contained way. Worst case scenario they end up with a useless building that you can't go in for hundreds of years. The only way for a leak to occur would be fore someone to take the uranium outside the containment area.

Thirdly I'd like to point out that Brazil had it's first Nuclear reactor in 1957. With commercial power plants in 1975. While they have only built a few reactors, they are thus far completely accident free.

Finally I would like to point out that under the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty we are obligated to help any country that has agreed not to make weapons to build peaceful use reactors. Despite recent speculation that Iran has violated this treaty, the USA has definitely violated the treaty by attempting to prevent them from having a peaceful Nuclear program.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Durrr on 8/9/2008 8:30:27 AM , Rating: 2
Actually, we HAVE offered to provide assistance in nuclear power generation, however, they have not allowed inspectors to inspect their enriching facilities.

There is full UN security council backing on further sanctions against them for not accepting the help.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By therealnickdanger on 8/8/2008 10:46:27 AM , Rating: 5
I would trade all the air pollutants output by coal-fire plants for barrels of nuclear waste that are contained and isolated any day. Meltdowns don't kill anyone with modern plants...

Dirty bombs? Bad people will always find ways to murder, let's focus on the people and not their tools. Misuse is a human trait, not a fault of the technology.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By 1frisbee1 on 8/8/2008 10:57:53 AM , Rating: 2
I think this is what I am getting at and Jason said something similar.

I trust the technology 100% it is the people that are the problem.

I think the aversion to nuclear in the cold war was also a recogintion that politically we were not sophisticated enough to globally adopt the technology.

This is why the 'necessity' argument is a problematic one, I think the technology is safe, but we do not have effective global oversight to ensure people use the technology safely.

Unless the US is willing to cede soverighty to a global nuclear policing authority with teeth and indepedent power to ensure that safety, the possibility of a single 'perfect storm' that results in a nuclear incident has consequnces that are too high to 'reasonably' accept.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 11:01:30 AM , Rating: 2
IAEA Anyone?

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By 1frisbee1 on 8/8/2008 11:05:28 AM , Rating: 2
IAEA Anyone?

'Teeth and indepdent power' - not volantary and requiring states' permission

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 11:08:07 AM , Rating: 2
Even the U.N. doesn't have that, I think your asking a bit much.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By therealnickdanger on 8/8/2008 11:49:04 AM , Rating: 2
I hear Darth Vader is looking for a job.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Chernobyl68 on 8/8/2008 12:42:54 PM , Rating: 2
paranoid much?

also your statement, I think, is contradictary.

you say that you "trust the technology 100%"

but that "the possibility of a single 'perfect storm' that results in a nuclear incident has consequnces that are too high to 'reasonably' accept"

the "perfect storm" was a confluence of naturally occuring events that resulted in one of the larget and most powerful storm systems seen in history. There's NOTHING that can be done about natural events so I'm not sure what your reference has to do with nuclear power.

Also, you should know there's a difference between "incidents" and "accidents" when it comes to nuclear power. Incidents involve unplanned release of nuclear contamination or radiation into the envoronment. An accident is an incident that affects the power producing capability of the nuclear plant.

And the US already has a policing authority with teeth - the US Navy. They're the safest operators of nuclear power plants in the world. There's 2 on every carrier, 8 on the enterprise, and one on each and every submarine the navy operates. If you want safe power plants, I say let the Navy run them.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By ElBrujo on 8/8/2008 11:58:14 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the Navy is regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with tighter controls than that required by civilian plants. US Navy reactors are far safer than civilian plants (reactor shutdown can happen in less than a second in case of emergency) but also cost a lot more to make than civilian plants, putting them out of viable economic reach. As far as letting "the Navy run them", most US civilian plants are already staffed by ex-Navy personnel.

Arguing semantics with non-nuclear trained people is somewhat of a waste of time. Most people don't even understand (or think about) the difference between radiation and contamination, which really is the most relevant concept in nuclear power. Unfortunately for us, while 3 Mile Island was actually a win as far as proof that the safety design worked, the hysteria generated by an ill-informed media reporting to an even less-informed public caused us to stop seeking nuclear as a form of power.

Assuming everything is run as it should, nuclear is the cleanest form of energy we have, with the lowest impact on the environment. Dams and windmills harness renewable energy but are unsightly and destroy ecosystems. Solar panels have energy density limits and aren't without their manufacturing environmental costs (just like many types of batteries used to store energy for electric vehicles). Gasoline is non-renewable, and coal is a heavy pollutant. Fuel cells require energy input that exceeds the output. Methane and methanol might be the best fuels as wasted by-products of processes we already have, but can't compare to the energy density of a nuclear power plant.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Solandri on 8/9/2008 12:07:48 AM , Rating: 2
the possibility of a single 'perfect storm' that results in a nuclear incident has consequnces that are too high to 'reasonably' accept.

The "perfect storm" you're describing is already happening, continuously, every year - in the form of emissions from burning coal. Our coal plants already dump almost 8x as much uranium into the atmosphere than if we took all our nuclear power plants, scoured the insides to collect all the uranium, and vaporized it into the atmosphere. Switching to nuclear power would at least contain all that released radioactivity except for small amounts in the rare "incident". Add the elimination of soot, sulfur, nitrous oxides, and CO2 emissions and it's insanity not to switch from coal to nuclear.

U.S. annual uranium released by burning coal: 145,230 tons (49% of electricity)
U.S. annual uranium used by nuclear reactors: 18,918 tons (19% of electricity)

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By TomZ on 8/8/2008 10:28:27 AM , Rating: 1
I agree. But in the US, no states AFAIK generate most of their electricity from nuclear plants. Therefore, using hydrogen vehicles to the nation's fleet necessarily involves burning more fossil fuels.

Relatively speaking, that's better than having individual emission-generating powerplants in each car (i.e., gas/diesel IC engine), but it's still not "clean," i.e., zero emissions like many uninformed zealots would have us believe.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Master Kenobi on 8/8/2008 10:48:29 AM , Rating: 2
But in the US, no states AFAIK generate most of their electricity from nuclear plants.

Indeed, this is a dire problem that needs to be fixed within the next decade.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By gamerk2 on 8/11/08, Rating: 0
RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By ThisSpaceForRent on 8/8/2008 1:09:23 PM , Rating: 2
Illinois comes close. If the Feds would allow construction of new nuclear plants that could tip the balance.

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By Andy35W on 8/9/2008 5:02:02 AM , Rating: 2
Hydrogen can "be clean" if you front load the electricity process with Nuclear, rather than Coal and Natural Gas. Nuclear and Hydrogen go hand in hand.

Or use wind

I rather like this scheme, they get a byproduct of clean hydrogen which they can convert back to electricity or power their electric car and the car just pumps out water as "pollution"

I doubt they would want a nuclear power plant on their island though ;)

RE: Solar & "Clean"?
By jiminmpls on 8/11/2008 10:12:27 AM , Rating: 2
Forget nuclear. It's too expensive to matter. Globally, distributed micropower has already surpassed nuclear in installed capacity and is growing at more than 8 times the rate at less than 1/4 the cost.

In the US, 85% of the components in a new nuclear plant and over 90% of the fuel would be IMPORTED. Nuclear and energy independence are mutually exclusive.

Google "the nuclear illusion" and educate yourself.

Cool and Scary...
By Seemonkeyscanfly on 8/8/2008 10:02:15 AM , Rating: 3
Solar panel at a “cheaper price” yea!!! Some assemble required.... OK, what's some assemble, not much just 5,000 pieces and the instruction are in Swedish.

Really great idea, but I hope they keep it simple.

RE: Cool and Scary...
By 325hhee on 8/8/2008 10:32:37 AM , Rating: 2
Solar panel at a “cheaper price” yea!!! Some assemble required.... OK, what's some assemble, not much just 5,000 pieces and the instruction are in Swedish.

LOL I was thinking the same thing. Here Mr. Smith, this is your Solar panel, enjoy. This box is only 3' x 3' Are you sure I have the right product? Yes, sir, the solar cells you have to assemble yourself, as well as the panel. btw, there's a 4 page manual on how to do it. Have a good day Mr. Smith.

RE: Cool and Scary...
By OxBow on 8/8/2008 12:47:09 PM , Rating: 2
The instructions wouldn't be in Swedish (that at least I could translate) but in those indiotic pictorgrams they use.

Worse than solar panel directions, could you imagine the pictograph for a wind generator. Some form of a windmill blade chopping off a stickman's head?

RE: Cool and Scary...
By xsilver on 8/8/2008 1:29:58 PM , Rating: 3
and you all forgot that its all assembled with the tiny spanner that is provided in the box.

and at the end of it there's always 3 extra screws so you're left with the feeling that it could collapse at any moment :P

RE: Cool and Scary...
By fibreoptik on 8/14/2008 4:02:28 PM , Rating: 2
If you have 3 extra screws left after building anything from Ikea then you should probably be paying more attention to the instructions.

There is a reason why they use pictograms (other than the language issue): most people don't like to read, let alone follow instructions.

"High Ikea standards"
By 306maxi on 8/8/2008 10:12:01 AM , Rating: 2
Mr. Stenebo says the products will have to meet IKEA's high standards. He explains, "Really low prices, and they should be of very good quality. That's the only thing we look at, we would never look at anything else, we would discard anything else that doesn't fall into those boundaries, whether it's home furnishings or it's greentech products."

ROFL. High standards and Ikea are two things which are mutually exclusive.....

RE: "High Ikea standards"
By Zandros on 8/8/2008 10:19:02 AM , Rating: 2
True enough, but in their price class I think they are pretty competitive in regards to quality.

RE: "High Ikea standards"
By dreddly on 8/8/2008 10:20:50 AM , Rating: 3
Yeah, does this mean we will have disposable solar panels we will have to replace every 6 months and water filters that break down weekly?

I think the biggest thing IKEA could do to go green would be to limit their focus on mass-producing the cheapest crap that ends up in landfill.

Solar Power is still in is infancy.
By Zar0n on 8/9/2008 4:54:00 PM , Rating: 1
The problem with solar power is that current commercial solar panels only take advantage of the red spectrum of the light, if you make staked panel to the 3 main spectrum it is possible to get much more energy out of them, but that is very expensive for mow.

I relation to nuclear is not a good source of energy, and it generates a lot o pollution, it seems every one forgets that the radioactive material must be mined, processed, and transported, like any other type of fuel.

And there is the fact that you cannot make the end product (waste) safe, and that the only way is to bury it for millions of years. That is super expensive, and again more pollution.

So nuclear is not safe, is never going to be safe, is not economical good if you take in consideration the cost of mining, building the reactor, operating it with all the security measures, and deactivating the station (that is actually more expensive that to build it in the first place).

So you see nuclear is not a good option by any angle.

I personally prefer hydro-electrical energy, and other types of renewal sources.

By cmdrdredd on 8/10/2008 3:50:50 PM , Rating: 2
I bet your also against drilling for Oil too? What are YOU gonna do with your car thst still runs on regular gasoline? I'm sure the government will NOT be giving away free electric vehicles to every american.

Our energy will continue to rely on these fossil fuels for years to come. Regardless of what plan they try to implement. The simple fact is we cannot rely on "renewable energy" for the immediate future. Industry and my car are not ready for that change.

Did you know that Ethanol reduces your MPG average? When the government mandated 10% ethanol in gasoline, it reduced the overall efficiency that you were supposed to get. Thanks a lot...

Solar power, won't produce enough energy for our consumption. At least not as the technology stands now. Wind? Same deal. It would take far more land and more material and labor cost to produce a viable wind based energy source for a major metropolitan area. Much more so than simply building one Nuclear facility.

By jimbojimbo on 8/11/2008 12:45:10 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and everybody in the US can benefit from hydro-electrical energy. Right.

By Verran on 8/8/2008 11:03:30 AM , Rating: 3
Ah, there. Finished. And with only six missing pieces!

Those Swedes sure know how to put in almost everything you need.

I hate to say it, but...
By spluurfg on 8/8/2008 10:00:26 AM , Rating: 2
€50m is a pretty meaningless figure for clean-tech venture capital, considering the amount of capital already going into the space. Furthermore, such investment involves a very specialized skillset... €50m might be useful for seed investments, but Ikea would probably be a much more valuable partner for bringing later-stage venture projects to market, which would probably require larger investments.

"He concludes"
By JonnyDough on 8/9/2008 3:54:35 AM , Rating: 2
He concludes...

He concludes... what exactly? A lecture? His synopsis?

You started this article and these quotes by the management and we have no idea what context this is in. Aside from that "various" should be very. I swear, this website gets worse with every article. Jason Mick, you're the worst DT has to offer, and it isn't just me that says so. Ok, your DT buddies can rate me down now. Pretty standard.

re-invented maybe...
By cherrycoke on 8/9/2008 4:32:56 PM , Rating: 2
it also invented flat packing of furniture to reduce costs.

Correct me if I am wrong but Thonet was flat packing his chairs in the 1800's, I don't know if I would say IKEA invented that concept/idea/practice.

New power
By andrinoaa on 8/12/2008 6:27:51 AM , Rating: 2
Why is it everytime we get a story on solar power the nuclear lobby lobs in? Nuclear story fine, solar story, give us a break. Pick holes if you must but stop acting like jealous turds. (just because no one likes nuclear)

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