Friday, 22 May 2009

Clean Sweep 62

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

Environmental Technologies Fund has led a £5.1m follow-on round in speciality metals group Metalysis. Previous investors including 3i, Chord Capital, Seven Spires and defence tech group Qinetiq (investing via Cody Gate Ventures) also returned following the firm's £13m round in July 2007. 3i's involvement is interesting as the troubled private equity giant has previously announced that it will be exiting its venture investments.
Rotherham-based Metalysis is commercialising a patented electrolytic method for producing speciality metals (including tantalum, titanium and high grade alloys) from metal salts in a more financially and environmentally cost effective process.

German biogas operator has raised Euro60m new equity. The round was led by US-based TCW Group, with returning investors including London-based Ludgate Environmental Fund. The M√ľnster-based firm also secured Euro10m mezzanine debt from Ecofin. develops and operates biogas CHP and biomethane production plant in Germany and Austria, with some 32MW installed capacity. The new funds will support organic growth and acquisitions.

California's Enphase Energy, a provider of electric inverters for solar modules, has closed a $22.5m round led by Madrone Capital Partners. Bay Partners also joined in the round, alongside previous investors Third Point Ventures, RockPort Capital Partners and Applied Ventures.
Enphase's 'microinverters' convert the DC output from individual PV modules into grid-ready AC power, removing the need for large traditional inverters. The tech can increase output by up to 25% while cutting costs by 15%.

Specialist VC Braemer Energy Ventures has invested $10m in lighting tech firm Fulham. The California company produces electronic ballasts which control the current powering fluorescent and LED lights, and expects strong growth as more territories ban energy-hungry incandescent lights.

Much-hyped electric car developer Tesla Motors has secured an undisclosed "double-digit million dollar sum" from auto group Daimler in return for a 10% strategic stake. The two firms had previously collaborated on fitting Tesla's Li-ion battery packs and charging electronics into Daimler's electric Smart cars.

Fund news
Spain's Arcano Capital is launching a new cleantech fund-of-funds with a target of Euro200-250m. The Arcano Earth Fund will invest in around 15 cleantech and renewable energy funds around the world, concentrating on those backing established businesses and technologies.

Further reading
Ahead of December's COP15 summit in Copenhagen, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has released drafts of the key negotiating texts, offering a smorgasbord of international policy options to promote emissions reductions and technology transfer. Much of the detail is likely to be finessed at the Bonn talks in June.
It's a pretty significant move towards openness and accountability in these negotiations. Carbon Finance collects some positive reactions from private sector players.

Meanwhile, the Manchester Report aims to collect the most innovative ideas for tackling climate change to present at Copenhagen. The initiative is organised by the Manchester International Festival and the Guardian newspaper, and is open to submissions until 29 May.

International action largely depends on the US finally taking a lead, of course. Many hopes are being pinned to the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act, likely to be the US's first major piece of carbon-reducing legislation to actually make it through the mill. Problem is, it seems to be deeply flawed, with the Economist calling it 'weaker and worse than expected'. The proposals on carbon permit trading seems particularly weak, with the vast majority of permits set to be handed out for nothing - pretty much the flaw that scuppered the early phases of the European Emissions Trading System.
Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman is relatively sanguine: The legislation now on the table isn’t the bill we’d ideally want, but it’s the bill we can get — and it’s vastly better than no bill at all.

Interesting study from the US National Research Council on the potential for transport fuels from biomass and coal. Coal doesn't add up on carbon grounds - even with carbon-capture during the conversion process, net emissions are similar to oil - but will appeal on energy-security grounds. The study is more optimistic about biomass (ie, cellulosic ethanol) which it reckons could replace 15% of oil use for light transport with negligible carbon costs (or even negative with carbon capture during conversion).

In an interesting partnership in the hotly-tipped engineered geothermal sector, AIM-listed Oxford Catalysts has announced an agreement with Google-backed Potter Drilling. The UK firm will provide its 'instant steam' tech for use with Potter's hydrothermal spallation drilling process. California-based Potter secured $4m funding from last August.
Engineered geothermal systems promise to generate energy by pumping water through hot subterranean rocks, giving the opportunity to exploit geothermal power in locations not blessed with natural hot springs. Drilling and maintaining the necessary shafts, to depths of several miles, is a major engineering challenge - Australian developer Geodynamics recently suffered a rupture at a 4km-deep well.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Clean Sweep 61

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

Water management group i2O Water has raised £4.2m growth funding in a round led by Swarraton Partners.
Southampton-based i2O is commercialising a software-based system for controlling the pressure of water as it's piped into district systems. By reducing pressure when demand falls, the sytem can significantly reduce leaks and distribution losses.
The tech has undergone trials in the UK, and i2O plans to use its new funding to move into water-stressed areas such as Australia and the Mediterranean.

Belgian start-up NovoPolymers has secured a Euro3m first round from Gimv and Capricorn Venture Partners. The Flanders firm is developing transparent polymer films for use in PV modules, and says its NovoVellum product can increase production efficiency by 25%. The new funding will be invested in R&D and scaling up production.

German fuel cell developer P21 closed a Euro10m round led by Dutch cleantech specialist Yellow&Blue.
P21 produces PEM hydrogen fuel cell systems to power off-grid telecom towers and base stations, and is currently operating in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Munich-based firm was spun off from Vodafone in 2001.

Swedish cleantech VC Sustainable Technologies Fund and existing investor InnovationsKapital have invested SKr35m (Euro3.3m) in high-efficiency transformers producer Hexaformer.
The Västervik-based company is commercialising electric transformers based on an symmetrical winding design which can reduce grid losses and cut costs by 5-15%.
Sustainable Technologies Fund also announced a SKr15m investment in woodchip generator group Swebo Bioenergy.

French VC Evolem has invested Euro2.2m in solar installer Evasol for a small minority stake. The Lyon-based group sources its PV systems from Tenesol, which is wholly owned by Total and EDF, and expects revenues of some Euro70m this year.

Israeli electric vehicle tech developer ETV Motors secured a $12m first round from stealthy cleantech VC Quercus Trust and 21 Ventures.
ETV is developing a microturbine charger, Li-ion batteries and other tech for long-range electric vehicles.

US battery developer Deeya Energy raised $30m in an oversubscribed third round. New investor Technology Partners led the round, alongside existing investors BlueRun Ventures, DFJ, Element Partners and New Enterprise Associates.
California-based Deeya is commercialising a redox flow battery technology developed at NASA in the 1970s. Its pilot product, the wardrobe-sized ESP 6000, is rated at 6KWh and is designed to support small renewable installations or serve as back-up.

Energy management firm Powerit Solutions closed a $6m round from corporate VCs Siemens Venture Capital and ArcelorMittal's Clean Technology Fund as well as existing investors @Ventures and Expansion Capital Partners.
The Seattle firm provides automated hardware and software systems, based on tech originally developed in Sweden, to help commercial and industrial clients reduce their energy use.
Also in energy management, New York's CPower raised a $10.7m second round, led by new investor Mayfield Fund and including existing investors including Bessemer Venture Partners and Expansion Capital Partners. The investment will be used to move into new regions and vertical markets.

The self-explanatory Plas2Fuel raised a $4.25m first round from Chrysalix, Saffron Hill Ventures and Reference Capital Management. The Washington firm is commercialising a proprietary process for cracking plastics waste into synthetic crude oil.

And in China, silicon PV developer Chint Solar (aka Astronergy) raised an impressive $50m first round led by Cybernaut Growth Fund and Shangai Alliance Investment.
The Hangzhou company produces single crystal silicon cells and modules, and is developing low-cost amorphous thin-film cells.

Fund news
HSBC Specialist Investments, an infrastructure and real estate subsidiary of the global bank, has announced a first closing of its HSBC Environment Infrastructure Fund at Euro117m. Final target is Euro500m.
The fund will invest in renewable energy, waste management and water treatment projects, primarily in Europe. The fund has already taken a 49% stake in Partnership for Renewables, a joint venture with the UK Carbon Trust to develop 500MW of renewable assets on public sector land.

Norwegian specialist VC Energy Ventures has raised a NKr85m (£8.6m) top-up fund from existing investors to provide continued for companies backed by its Energy Ventures II KS fund. Such top-up or annex funds are an increasingly common way for VC and private equity investors to provide for their portfolio during the downturn.

US VC giant New Enterprise Associates has reportedly raised $2.15bn for its 13th fund. Target is $2.5bn, cut from an initial $3bn. NEA has substantial cleantech investments, including solar developers Konarka, HelioVolt and SolFocus.

The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development has committed a further Euro3-5bn funding for renewable and energy efficiency projects in Eastern Europe under its Sustainable Energy Initiative. The investment aims to trigger up to Euro15bn total investment.
The first phase of the initiative saw the EBRD invest Euro2.7bn over 2006-08 in projects worth a total Euro14bn.

Further reading
The troubled London Array offshore windfarm took a step forward as the project's three core developers agreed to push ahead following Shell's exit last year. Denmark's Dong Energy (which owns 50% of the project), utility group E.On (30%) and Abu Dhabi's Masdar (20%) confirmed that they would invest Euro2.2bn in the first 630MW phase.

The UK government's smart meter programme slowly gathers pace with a consultation on roll-out and meter functionality. The aim is a smart meter in every home and business by 2020.

The Carbon Trust has announced a partnership with the China Energy Conservation Investment Corporation to share low-carbon innovation. The venture aims to introduce and support UK businesses into China and to help leverage further public and private sector funding.