Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Clean Sweep 26

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.

VCT manager Matrix Private Equity Partners has invested £3m in a management buyout at environmental technology consultancy Monsal.
Mansfield-based Monsal offers a range of services to the water and waste sectors. Notably, it's the UK market leader in anaerobic digestion technology that breaks down biological solid waste into burnable biogas which is eligible for Renewable Obligation Certificate (ROC) subsidies. MD Aidan Cumiskey led the MBO.

Danish turbine manufacturer Emergya Wind Technologies has secured a Euro20m package led by Dutch investor AtlasInvest. London's Ludgate Environmental Fund chipped in Euro2m. Funding goes towards working capital and loan repayment.

Spanish biofuel group Ambene Biocarburantes raised Euro16m from French buyout house Demeter. Details are sketchy, but it's the third Spanish renewables investment for Demeter this year.

Swiss specialist investor Good Energies has led a $4m second round in Second Wind, a Massachusetts-based provider of software and electronics for utility-scale wind energy industry.
Good Energies has also announced the appointment of John Breckenridge as managing director at its New York office.

Mobile fuel cell developer Lilliputian Systems (no website, as far as I can find) raised an extra $20m+ from DAG Ventures and previous backers including Atlas Venture, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Rockport Capital Partners. The Massachusetts firm is developing butane-powered fuel cells for mobile electronic devices, based on tech developed at MIT with DARPA sponsorship. It previously raised a $30m third round two years ago.

Californian energy efficiency consultancy Energy & Power Solutions meanwhile raised a $20m first round from NGEN, Robeco Group and others.

Further reading
US VCs predict another active year in cleantech, according to a member survey by the US National Venture Capital Association. 80% of respondents reckon cleantech will attract higher levels of venture funding, but 61% believe the sector will be over-valued. The rush is predicted to expand beyond solar and biofuel, the largest areas for US deals so far.
Other predictions include an improving IPO market and consolidation among venture firms. More details here (link opens PDF). Rob Day critiques the findings over on his Cleantech Investing blog.

News from the University of Copenhagen on a promising breakthrough in solar tech (full paper from Nature by subscription). The 'nano flake' material can use a variety of III-V semiconductors in what researcher Martin Aagesen describes as 'a perfect crystalline structure'. The cells promise 30% conversion efficiency, around twice that of current technologies. It's being commercialised by spin-out SunFlake with seed funding from the university and SEED Capital.

And finally, best wishes to all Clean Ventures readers for a very merry Christmas and a clean and profitable 2008.
The new year will see us move to a new home and a new look, with continuing coverage of cleantech VC deals and news, plus extra features and services for UK cleantech companies and their investors. Cheers!

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Merton revisited

As we relayed a few months ago, the government was reportedly planning to drop a mandate that all new buildings should include some renewable energy capacity.

The so-called Merton rule, introduced by the eponymous London borough in 2003, requires any new building to reduce its carbon emissions by 10%. It had been taken up by around 150 other local authorities with encouragement from Whitehall, but this support was thought to be likely to disappear from the upcoming draft planning policy statement after pressure from the construction lobby.

Well, the relevant department (Communities & Local Government) has now released a special supplement to the planning policy statement, Planning and Climate Change.

While there's no explicit reference to the Merton Rule (though there is in the accompanying press release), the document recommends that local planning authorities should expect a proportion of the energy supply of new development to be secured from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources. And while no targets (or even target targets) are given, planning authorities are advised to set out a target percentage of the energy to be used in new development to come from decentralised and renewable or low-carbon energy sources where it is viable.

So not as bad as expected, perhaps, but it still all seems a little wafty - subsidiarity issues aside, an actual requirement would be of more use than a recommendation. It's not the news that businesses developing, supplying and installing alternative energy systems might have hoped for, but it's better than nowt.

In other news, the Carbon Trust and the Energy Technologies Institute have announced a new £40m initiative to speed the development and deployment of offshire wind power around the UK. The two quangos are also seeking further private sector sponsorship for the scheme, which is expected to lead to a small number of large R&D projects.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Clean Sweep 25

A round-up of recent news in clean technology and cleantech investment.

Mid-market bank investor Barclays Ventures has backed the buyout of two green building services companies, Solar Home Energy and Warmroof. The Hampshire-based sister companies provide domestic solar thermal installations and spray foam loft insulation, respectively.
The £10m+ deal's described as a BIMBO (that's a combined buy-in and management buy-out, for those not versed in private equity jargon), with new MD Arun Sahajpal and FD Martin Jackson taking over from the previous owner-managers. Invex Capital Partners also backed the deal, with the two investors taking a majority stake.
While not exactly a cutting-edge tech deal, it's further proof that the domestic solar and energy efficiency market is well within the (arguably rather conservative) mainstream of UK mid-market private equity. Kent-based renewables contractor Cel-F Solar secured £1m investment from Bank of Scotland Growth Equity in October.

Up in Norway, wind-power software company WindSim has raised undisclosed funding (Update: Euro500k, according to Library House) from local tech investor Sarsia Seed. WindSim develops wind and terrain simulation software to help turbine operators select optimum locations and layouts, with the new funding going towards hiring new development and sales staff. The firm reports a significant increase in interest from potential customers in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America.

Israeli solar tech business SolarEdge Technologies has secured a $11.8m first round from Silicon Valley VC Opus Capital, alongside Genesis Partners and Walden International Ventures.
SolarEdge is one of those stealth operations - they seem to have a website here, but there's nowt happening there yet. They're reportedly working on combined hardware/software tech to improve power conversion efficiency from PV installations. According to the VentureWire report, the IT-focused investors at Opus were wary of investing in a cleantech company - a sign of developing investor nervousness?

In other solar deals, Vermont-based installer GroSolar raised a $10m second round from NGP Energy Technology Partners and existing investors. And Canadian CPV cell developer Cyrium Technologies raised $5.5m top-up funding from existing investors - Cyrium's semiconductor quantum dots promise to increase cell efficiency by over 40%.

Elsewhere in the US, International Battery raised $25m from Digital Power Capital. The funding goes towards completing manufacturing facilities in Pennsylvania for the firm's large-format Li-ion batteries for use in hybrid and electric vehicles.
University spin-off OPX Biotechnologies raised $3.6m in a first round led by Morh Davidow Ventures. The Colorado firm is developing genetically modified microbes for biofuel production.
And Californian wind tech business Viryd raised $2.1m from undisclosed private investors. The firm is a spin-out from Fallbrook Technologies which produces novel drivetrain technologies, primarily for bicycles.

Canadian waste-to-energy group Plasco Energy raised a C$54m third round. Lead investor First Reserve also committed to invest an extra C$115m next year. Plasco is commercialising its plasma-based gasification tech, with a pilot plant in Ottawa capable of converting 85 tonnes/day of municipal waste into fuel gas.

Fund news
New European investor Sustainable Energy Technology Venture Partners launched with a networking bash in Amsterdam. The first fund, which recently closed at Euro50m, will focus on early-stage opportunities in alternative energy generation, emission control, applications such as micro CHP and fuel cells, and energy efficiency tech - pretty much the cleantech gamut.
SET VP is backed by Canadian specialist investor Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and Dutch asset manager Robeco and headed by former Philips corporate VC chief Rene Savelsberg. Lead investors include Dutch utilities group Delta and energy group Essent.

Policy news
In what's presented as a significant boost to the UK's offshore wind industry, energy secretary John Hutton announced a Strategic Environmental Assessment of future development. According to the headline rubric, this could open up Britain's shores to a total 33GW of capacity, or enough to power all UK homes by 2020. Some researchers and industry insiders call the figures pie in the sky, however.
Britain is already set to soon overtake Denmark as the nation with most offshore wind capacity (well, we do have a lot of windy coastline). The rights for offshore installations are held by the Crown Estate, which has been allocating leases in a series of competitive rounds - current plans under the first two rounds include 8GW capacity by 2014. The new assessment considers opening up a third and subsequent rounds, allowing for up to 25GW extra.
The consultation document is available as a PDF here.

Further reading
Last week's New Scientist had a good accessible overview of the state of the art in solar tech, focusing on its increasingly competitive costs compared to established generation:
The prospect of relying on the sun for all our power demands - conservatively estimated at 15 terawatts in 2005 - is finally becoming realistic thanks to the rising price of fossil fuels, an almost universal acceptance of the damage they cause, plus mushrooming investment in the development of solar cells and steady advances in their efficiency. The tried-and-tested method of using the heat of the sun to generate electricity is already hitting the big time, but the really big breakthroughs are happening in photovoltaic (PV) cells.
The full feature is subscription-only on the NS website, but the mag's still on the racks till Thursday.