Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Clean Sweep 50

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

London-based Climate Change Capital Private Equity has invested Euro10m in German broadband group Power Plus Communications. PPC provides broadband over low- and medium-voltage powerlines. Climate Change Capital says this will form a key element in smart grids, allowing electricity providers to communicate with smart meters and support other applications.
PPC was spun out of German utility MVV Energie in 2002. The fund becomes the only institutional investor in the company, and is taking seats on its board.

French wind turbine manufacturer Weole Energy has raised a Euro2m round from Crédit Agricole Private Equity, via its FCPR Capenergie fund, and energy supplier Direct Energie. Founded last year, the Paris-based company produces 2-50KW turbines for residential, business and municipal use.
CAPE is also investing from its Capenergie fund in biomass methanisation unit developer Methaneo. Demeter Partners also joined in the Euro3m round, in the first investment from its FCPR Demeter 2 fund.

Demeter Partners, Schneider Electric Ventures and TechFund have increased their stakes in PV producer Solairedirect. New investor Ofivalmo Partners and insurance groups Macif, AGPM and UMR also joined in the Euro20m round. The firm previously raised Euro6.1m in July 2007.
Solairedirect is planning to build 300MW of solar parks, at a cost of around Euro1.2bn.

Across the Atlantic, hybrid-electric tech developer ISE raised a $17.5m fourth round from Siemens Venture Capital, Macquarie Clean Technology Fund and DTE Energy Ventures. Previous investors RockPort Capital Partners and NGP Energy Technology Partners also joined the round. California-based ISE produces drive systems and control software for hybrid electric trucks and buses.

Washington-based materials technology developer EnerG2 meanwhile raised a $8.5m first round to help increase production of its nano-structured ultracapacitor. The device has a large potential market in hybrid electric vehicles, and can improve efficiency in electronic goods. OVP and Firelake led the round.

Carbon management software group Clear Standards raised a $4m first round from Novak Biddle Venture Partners and Kinetic Ventures. The firm says its software can track any type of commodity use or environmental impact, from energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, to water consumption and waste recycling. Rival carbon management group Planet Metrics raised $2.3m a few weeks earlier, as reported last time.
Also in green software, San Francisco's Carbonflow raised $1m from @Ventures for its carbon-trading systems.

Fund news
AIM-listed Ludgate Environmental Fund raised £18m new capital through a new share placement. South Yorkshire Pensions Authority, SVM Asset Management and Baring Asset Management are among those buying in. The fundraising brings Ludgate's total assets up to around £50m.

Kent-based cleantech specialist Foresight Group has starting raising a new fund with a target of up to £300m, according to Environmental Finance. The firm says it has secured interest from an institutional investor to anchor the new fund. The fund will follow on from its £22.5m UK Sustainable Investment Fund, which operates under HMRC's Enterprise Investment Scheme.

Other European cleantech investors currently on the fundraising trail include Aviva Investors with its European Renewable Energy Fund (Euro500m target); Spain's Taiga Mistral with a second fund targeted at Eastern European renewables (Euro50m); and Robeco with Robeco Responsible Private Equity II (Euro250m).

Further reading
Chris Smith, chair of the Environment Agency for England and Wales, urges a Green New Deal for the UK. Alistair Darling doesn't quite deliver in this week's pre-budget review, as Mark Lynas sets out in the Guardian (more here). Meanwhile, there's a growing campaign for a government-backed 'green investment bank' to finance renewables projects.

The Cleantech Group presents its State of the nation 'webinar' on the effects of the continuing economic mess. Capital is becoming more expensive, but the turmoil should shake out the lightweights from the sector. "We're going to see a better market emerge for cleantech that is more sustainable, more enduring," says exec chairman Nicholas Parker, as he would.

New Energy Finance looks at the prospects for wind energy in these cold economic gales. The forecast is for short-term problems with project finance, but brighter prospects in the medium- to long-run. More detail (pdf).

The feature that everyone's been talking about - Greentech's Top Eight Paranoid Companies. Only eight?

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Clean Sweep 49

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

Scotland's Pelamis Wave Power has raised a £5m round from existing shareholders including Emerald Technology Ventures, Statoilhydro Venture, BlackRock, Atmos and Sustainable Performance Group. The Scottish Venture Fund, a government-backed co-investment fund, contributed £2m.
The money goes towards the firm's continuing R&D programme, as well as developing its manufacturing capabilities at a new factory in Leith. Pelamis's wave energy converter uses an articulated string of cylinders to extract electricity from the movement of the waves, via hydraulic motors. The firm hit the headlines in September when it launched its first full-scale wave farm off Portugal.

Dutch solar installer SolarTotal has raised an undisclosed investment from SET Venture Partners, the Euro50m cleantech fund backed by Chrysalix Energy and Robeco Institutional Asset Management. SolarTotal sells and installs PV systems for residential and commercial customers across much of western Europe, and is eyeing opportunities in other territories.

In the US, silicon PV developer CaliSolar raised a $51.9m second round from Hudson Clean Energy Partners, Advanced Technology Ventures and Globespan, plus a further $50m in convertible notes.
The money goes towards the firm's first commercial plant. CaliSolar makes solar cells made from refined metallurgical silicon, which is significantly cheaper than the high-grade crystalline silicon used by the semiconductor industry and conventional PV.
The price of high-grade silicon is forecast to fall dramatically from recent highs, as new manufacturing capacity comes on line, however - presumably CaliSolar's investors calculate that its tech still has enough of a price advantage.

Emissions management business Planet Metrics has closed a $2.3m first round. Cleantech VC heavyweight Draper Fisher Jurvetson invested alongside angel investors.
The California-based firm provides what it calls 'streamlined carbon modeling and visualization software' for businesses looking to analyse and reduce their emissions. Ina flagship project, Planet Metrics will be analysing the emissions of the huge International CES consumer electronics tradeshow in January.

DFJ also backed the first round for D.Light Design, a solar lighting spin-out from Stanford University. In a fairly rare deal in cleantech for the developing world, D.Light produces solar-charged LED lamps which it hopes will replace dangerous and inefficient kerosene lamps in homes across Africa and Asia.
The team of MBAs behind the company first won support from DFJ through the firm's Venture Challenge programme. The firm now has operations in China and India.

Colorado State University spin-out Solix Biofuels meanwhile raised a $10.5m first round from I2BF Venture Capital and others (including Southern Ute Alternative Energy, which manages clean power investments for the eponymous Indian tribe).
The algal biofuel firm, which has its roots in a Department of Energy programme from the 1970s, is developing a pilot plant on Southern Ute reservation land to produce algal biofuels and chemical precursors from photobioreactors.

Miles Electric Vehicles has reportedly raised $13m in a planned $40m second round. Angeleno Group, who backed the California firm's first round in January, is among those committed.
Miles specialises in 'normal'-looking electric cars and small trucks. See Earth2Tech for more.

Further reading
If you've been following the news carefully, you might have noticed that the US had some sort of election recently. Rob Day on Cleantech Investing ponders what it means for US cleantech venture capital; Ron Pernick of Clean Edge urges clean energy bonds; Jesse Jenkins takes a broader view of energy policy on; and the Guardian takes an international perspective.

Less cheery news in the UK, as BP shelves the bulk of its plans for wind farms and other renewable schemes at home (as well as in China, India and Turkey). The Guardian bears the bad news:
The decision is a major blow to the prime minister, Gordon Brown, who has promised to sweep away all impediments to ensure Britain is at the forefront of the green energy revolution. BP and Shell - which has also pulled out of renewables in Britain - are heavily influential among investors.
BP has advertised its green credentials widely in the UK and has a representative on the ruling board of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA). But it said difficulty in getting planning permission and lower economies of scale made the UK wind sector far less attractive than that of the US.

Monday, 3 November 2008

The Low Carbon Innovation Partnership

There was some fairly big news for UK cleantech venture capital announced yesterday - a new £250m fund backed by oil money.

The Qatar Investment Authority is bankrolling the new Low Carbon Innovation Partnership with £150m. UK emissions-cutting quango the Carbon Trust is contributing £10m and managing the fund through its CT Investment Partners advisory business. The Carbon Trust will be looking to raise the remainder from private sources - expect commitments from VC houses which don't have their own cleantech resources.

For more detail, see the Carbon Trust release:
The Carbon Trust - set up by the UK Government in 2001 and one of the world’s leading experts on low carbon technologies - has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) on a new Low Carbon Innovation Partnership to set up a new £250m Qatar-UK Clean Technology Investment Fund and to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar.
The Fund will seek to make venture capital investments in clean energy businesses primarily located in the UK. Selected investment opportunities in continental Europe will also be considered. In addition, the Fund will consider investing in the Gulf Region once an investment capability is established in Qatar. The Fund will begin investing with up to £150m committed from the QIA alongside the Carbon Trust’s commitment. It will look for further funding from other investors to bring the maximum amount to £250m.
The Memorandum of Understanding also includes a commitment to carry out a feasibility study to investigate the creation of a Low Carbon Innovation Centre in Qatar. It will aim to share skills and knowledge on the development, commercialisation and deployment of low carbon technology between the UK and Qatar.