Monday, 21 January 2008

Clean Sweep 29

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

In a potentially important non-VC deal for a major market, AIM-listed fuel cell business Ceres Power secured a £20m investment from utility group Centrica (trading as British Gas). The investment is part of a development and supply agreement following trials of Ceres' residential CHP unit, with British Gas placing a forward order for at least 37,500 units over four years. A new share issue gives Centrica a 10% stake in Ceres. The Crawley-based business was founded in 2001 to commercialise fuel cell technology developed at Imperial College, London.
Another AIM-listed CHP developer, Chester-based Energetix, has meanwhile signed a development deal with power and gas supplier E.ON. The deal covers development of a domestic CHP unit based on Energetix's Genlec technology, which uses simple thermal cycle (like a fridge, but in reverse) to generate electricity from the boiler's heat.

In the US, the Detroit Auto Show meant it was a busy week for clean motoring deals, and for VC legends Khosla Ventures. Khosla announced an unspecified investment in next-gen engine developer EcoMotors (no website, it seems) - the firm's diesel motors aim to deliver 100mpg by 2011, with an opposed-cylinder design similar to that used by Junkers in the 1930s.
The same VC also announced undisclosed funding for engine tech developer Transonic Combustion. The California firm is developing fuel injection systems which promise dramatic efficiency improvements in gasoline and biofuel engines.
Khosla portfolio company Coskata meanwhile announced a strategic partnership with General Motors. The auto giant takes an undisclosed but 'significant' stake in the Illinois-based biofuels firm, which uses microbial bioreactors to produce ethanol from waste.
Finally, Vinod Khosla's old partners at Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers led a second round in Fisker Automotive. California-based Fisker, a subsidiary of Quantum Technologies is developing a range of luxury cars using Quantum's plug-in hybrid electric tech.

It wasn't all motors - nanomaterial developer NanoGram raised a $32m follow-on round to expand its solar activities. New investors include Global Cleantech Capital, Masdar Clean Tech Fund and Mitsui Ventures. The Silicon Valley firm group has developed a laser-based process for depositing polycrystalline silicon nanoparticles, which promises to reduce PV module production costs to under $1/Wp.
Solar thermal developer eSolar meanwhile secured $10m from Google. The search engine giant announced it was working with the firm as part of its Renewable Energy Cheaper Than Coal initiative back in November.
And at the cutting edge, Nanoptek raised a $4.7m first round led by the Quercus Trust. The Massachusetts-based firm is developing a solar-powered electrolysis system that produces hydrogen directly from water. The system relies on a photoactive semiconductor known as titania - let's hope it's no fairy tale.

Fund news
Financial giant Morgan Stanley has taken an unspecified minority stake in US cleantech specialist NGEN Partners. The deal is the first direct investment by a Wall Street major in a cleantech VC, and helps put it further in the mainstream. NGEN investments include concentrated solar groups SolFocus and Solaria, thin-film solar developer Konarka and renewables provider Tioga Energy.
Morgan Stanley also recently closed a $200m solar project fund with commercial installer Recurrent Energy.

Further reading
The latest market stats from Library House showed European cleantech VC topped Euro200m for the first time in the last quarter of 2007, with Euro206m in 37 deals. Over the year, investment reached Euro712m, almost double the figure for 2006.
Initial year-end figures from the US Cleantech Group meanwhile show continued growth in international cleantech VC, with North American and European deals totalling $5.18bn over the year, up from $3.6bn in 2006. European companies received $1.23bn in 105 deals, while North Americans took $3.95bn in 268 deals. Over half the global total went into energy generation, with solar deals dominating. Full details will be released next month, but the basic stats and comment are available here.
Public market investment in clean energy also enjoyed a record year, according to figures from New Energy Finance. Clean energy companies raised $21.5bn of public equity, over double 2006's total. European markets raised the bulk of money ($14.2bn), helped by the $6.6bn IPO of Spanish utility subsidiary Iberdrola Renovables in December.

The Carbon Trust has released interesting research on the impact of the EU emissions trading scheme on UK business competitiveness. The sub-sectoral study finds that competitiveness will not be damaged, apart from potentially in the energy-intensive areas of cement, steel, aluminium, pulp and paper, basic inorganic chemicals and fertiliser. The Trust recommends special consideration in reducing carbon permit allocations for these areas, which represent 0.2% of UK employment but generate around 3% of total CO2 emissions. The full study can be downloaded here.

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