Last night, I went to a panel at the Museum of American Finance on Wall Street (no, really!) on what’s financially hot or soon will be in non-coal, non-oil energy technologies. I love these kinds of events; typically, what comes of them is reality-based information, dealing with who has the money, where it’s going (or ought to go), and what will get it there, in order to transform our energy system. I come away from these things more hopeful than from any number of political rallies, because these are people who are walking their talk instead of posing in their Rogan jeans and “Save the planet” t-shirts.

The panel was co-sponsored by Sierra Club, so the articulate Carl Pope was one of the speakers, natch. The other speakers were Pete Cartwright, CEO of Advanced Power Projects, Inc.; Daniel Abbasi, head of regulatory and public policy research for MissionPoint Capital Partners (“Financing transition to carbon free economy”); Michael Molnar, VP at Goldman Sachs, responsible for alt. energy and coal sectors in the Energy & Materials Equity Research Business Unit; and moderator Myron Kandel, founding financial editor at CNN.

You can read my liveblog-style notes for the whole evening at my own blog. A few juicy nuggets:

Abbasi: We see right now the challenge as a commercialization and diffusion problem, not an innovation problem … Example: Sun Edison — biz model innovation, not new tech. Wal-Mart is now a client — let us borrow your roof, we’ll put the solar power panels on them, maintain them, you’ll have solar power and some price guarantees. Diffusion is the key at this point, not invention.

Pope: With a new president, we get a new opportunity but not a solution. League of Conservation Voters survey: counted all questions asked of all candidates this year by 14 Sunday talk show hosts and other pundits — 3,500 odd questions in total. Five had to do with energy and global warming. 42 about haircuts.

No one’s asked these candidates what they’ll do. If we don’t improve the quality of American citizenship, we will not improve quality of American leadership. But that said, the candidates are willing to talk about it, but the media won’t ask.

Molnar: [on companies touting green credibility] Information is not in the graphic of green or green brand statement. Look at company’s 10K to see how much money the company is making on green tech. Magnitude of problem: you need to see companies making money to stimulate investment. When there’s an eco incentive and people can make money, that’s the scenario where you can have positive change. A lot rests on government policies and subsidies.

Cartwright: Yes, incentives are important. But energy industry moves very slowly. If we invented the perfect clean tech today, it wouldn’t make a significant contribution for 20 years. So I think we have to go with the tech we currently have available, and I think yes, a recession might hurt [our progress].