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 Münster-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.

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