Thursday, 12 March 2009

Clean Sweep 57

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

South London waste management group Vertal has raised £5m from cleantech specialist Foresight Group.
Founded in 2006, Vertal is commercialising an anaerobic digestion technology to convert food waste into high-grade fertiliser. The new funding goes towards completing its first full-scale, 200t/day facility in Mitcham.

Foresight has also signed two solar farm deals with Italian developers Enerqos and Ecoware. Worth a total Euro50m, the projects involve 10MW of PV capacity. Equity comes from Foresight's European Solar Fund, launched in November.

Fuel cell developer ACAL Energy has raised undisclosed follow-on funding from Sumitomo Corporation. The investment follows a £3.3m fundraising in December led by the Carbon Trust and Solvay.
Cheshire-based Acal is developing small (<1kW) PEM fuel cells for domestic and transport applications, based on a proprietary 'liquid cathode' technology which replaces the standard platinum cathode. The firm is looking to Japan and other Asian markets to drive initial growth.

Clean pesticide developer Exosect has secured £2m growth funding from existing investors Oxford Capital Partners, WHEB Ventures and the Entrepreneurs Fund.
The Winchester firm, a spin-out from the University of Southampton, has developed a fine wax-based powder which can carry targeted insecticides and reduce chemical use and residual pollution. Exosect is now shipping its products internationally, and expecting strong commercial growth.

Following its recent £4m equity round, New Earth Solutions has raised £10m operational funding from private investors.
The Dorset-based firm announced a first close of its Recycling Facilities Investment Sub-Fund, which will invest directly in the firm's own recycling and waste management facilities. Open to experienced investors, the fund is listed on the Channel Islands Stock Exchange and managed by Isle of Man-based Premier Group.

European investor Waterland has stepped into the cleantech arena with a brace of sizeable if conservative deals.
International renewables project developer Enfinity Management secured a Euro50m capital increase to drive international expansion. Waterland says its investment is 'its first step in a sustainability-themed market'.
The house also invested Euro36m in Dutch biomethanol group BioMCN. The firm is preparing to open its first 200,000t/a processing unit, and will use the new funding to double that capacity.

Norwegian PV manufacturer NorSun has closed a NKr1.15bn (£120m) funding round. Cleantech specialist Good Energies invested half the NKr500m equity portion, alongside parent group Scatec and utility Norsk Hydro.
Norsun produces single crystal silicon wafers for solar cells and panels. New funding goes to towards completing a new production facility in Årdal, Norway, and also developing thin-film subsidiary SunFilm, which is jointly owned by NorSun and Good Energies.

Good Energies also led a $20m round in smart glass developer Sage Electrochromics, alongside fellow investors Applied Ventures and Bekaert.
Minnesota-based Sage produces metal oxide-coated windows which can control the amount of heat and light which passes through.

Energy efficiency systems developer SynapSense raised a $7m round led by Germany's Robert Bosch Venture Capital. Previous investors including Emerald Technology Ventures, Sequoia Capital, American River Ventures, Nth Power and DFJ Frontier also joined in.
The Californian firm produces wireless monitoring systems to improve efficiency in data centres. It's also exploring non-data applications such as, potentially, electric vehicles.

Fund news
European tech investor Index Ventures has closed its new early stage fund at Euro350m. The Index Ventures V fund will aim at early and seed stage investments in cleantech, ICT and biotech. Index has been relatively light in cleantech to date, but more deals seem likely.

US cleantech specialist Element Partners (part of the DFJ network) has closed its second fund at $486m, ahead of original $400m target. According to reports, most of the commitments were in before the fundraising market took a nosedive in Q4 last year.

Further reading
The BVCA has released more details of its new Energy, Environment and Technology Group, which aims to promote the cleantech and renewables sector and advise companies, investors and policy makers. Chaired by HgCapital's Tom Murley, the 12-strong group includes reps from familiar names including CT Investment Partners, Good Energies and WHEB. Environmental Finance has more from Murley.

Market research honchos Clean Edge have released their Clean Energy Trends 2009 report. Top trends this time round: big growth in smart grid, grid infrastructure, energy storage and micropower; and more renewables development in relatively under-developed nations.

Some relevant news from the Climate Change Congress in Copenhagen this week. Renewables could provide 40% of global electricity by 2050, according to academics studying the potential contribution of each sub-sector; and even stringent emissions cuts can create growth and development opportunities, says Cambridge's Terry Barker:
"There is some evidence that harder greenhouse gas targets and regulation may actually increase benefits through improved innovation and distribution of low carbon technologies, and increased revenues from taxes or permits. These revenues can be spent to further support new technology and to lower other indirect taxes, ensuring the fiscal neutrality of these measures."

But New Energy Finance warns Clean Energy Investment not on Track to Avoid Climate Change (244kb pdf):
New Energy Finance expects investment in clean energy to hold steady at around $150bn per annum through the economic downturn and resume growth thereafter. In
the Global Futures 2009 Base Scenario, investment is insufficient to drive down CO2
emissions from the energy system this side of 2030.

Summary of VC-related discussions at last month's Cleantech Forum in San Francisco raises some interesting points:
Whitney Rockley, a principal at Nomura, said VCs are presented with a choice between needing an exit in three to four years, and investing in “amazing technologies out there,” such as German companies developing Fresnel lenses for solar thermal, or water technologies being developed in Israel.

And there's an interesting paper in McKinsey Quarterly looking at ways to promote energy efficiency in the developing world by deploying smarter tech.

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