Thursday, 16 July 2009

Clean Sweep 67

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

Green building firm E-Stack has raised £1.1m from growth specialist MMC Ventures. MMC manages funds under the Enterprise Investment Scheme as well as a syndicate of private investors.
A spin-out from Cambridge University, E-Stack produces and installs low-energy ventilation systems based on technology developed at the BP Institute. The firm has installed its systems at eight schools in the UK, and is working on a major retail project.

Also in Cambridge, grid tech developer GenDrive raised undisclosed funding from a business angle syndicate. The firm produces plug-and-play inverters which can connect a range of renewable generators to the grid - its TOTUS product can handle powers of 10-100KW.
Another Cambridge-based inverter developer, Enecsys raised a £6m first round last month.

French electric car developer Lumeneo raised a Euro1.6m round led by Eco-mobility Partners (a fund operated by national transport group SNCF). Objective Gazelle 2 and business angel group XMP-BA also joined in.
The funding goes towards development of Lumeneo's Smera model, a nippy little thing which resembles a four-wheeled enclosed scooter.

German water treatment firm Inge Watertechnologies has closed a Euro5m syndicated round. Baytech Venture Capital joined existing investors Taprogge Watertech, Emerald Technology Ventures, Sustainable Performance Group, Siemens Venture Capital, StoneFund and Entrepreneurs Fund.
Griefenberg-based Inge produces a range of water treatment products using its patented Multibore membrane, which is based on fibres with multiple pores of 20nm diameter arranged in a honeycomb structure.

Norwegian PV manufacturer Innotech Solar has raised a Euro6m second round from Swedish VC Sustainable Technologies Funds and seed investor NorthZone Ventures.
Innotech (formerly known as SCR) specialises in converting 'non-prime' PV cells rejected by other manufacturers into viable modules for large solar power plants. The new funding helps the company move to full-scale production.

Sweden's Mantex secured SKr12m (Euro1.1m) from the VC arm of German utility RWE Innogy. Mantex produces moisture detection systems for wood and crops, with applications in the biomass and waste treatment industries.

Inversiones Financieras Perseo, the private equity wing of Spanish utility Iberdrola is reported to be taking a 25% stake in algal developer AlgaEnergy (beware - their website may play Michael Jackson at you!).
The Madrid firm is developing a range of microalgae-based technologies for absorbing CO2 and producing biofuels and chemicals.
Iberdrola also announced it is applying for up to $500m in US economic stimulus funding for its American wind division.

Over in the US, methane-converter Prometheus Energy raised a reported $20m from the Shell Technology Ventures Fund (managed by Kenda Capital) and Black River Asset Management (part of agri giant Cargill).
Washington-based Prometheus converts low-quality methane-containing gases from landfill sites, farms, stranded oilwells and coalbeds into relatively clean-burning liquid natural gas. In many cases, the gas would otherwise be burned off or vented into the atmosphere.

California-based CPV developer SolFocus closed its third round at $77.6m. Apex Venture Partners led the round, with new investors including Demeter Partners and Advanced Equities, and previous investors New Enterprise Associates, NGEN and Yellowstone Capital.
SolFocus announced the round's first close at $47m in January. Funds go to ramp up production.

Massachusetts solar start-up Greenray meanwhile closed a $2m first round from Quercus Trust and 21Ventures. The firm produces plug-and-play PV modules for the residential market.

In another solar-related deal, printed electronics developer Kovio raised $20m from existing investors including Bessemer Venture Partners and KPCB. The California company prints silicon electronics onto thin film, using much less energy and hazardous chemicals than traditional manufacturing. Kovio is currently focused on RFID circuits and display technology, but is understood to be considering a move into thin-film PV.
And chemicals group Voltaix raised $9m from Novus Energy Partners. The New Jersey firm produces precursors for semiconductor layers in solar cells.

Domestic electronics group company Control4 raised $17.3m to develop a new range of energy management and display products. Best Buy Capital, Mercato Partners and University Venture Fund joined previous investors Foundation Capital, Frazier Technology Ventures, Thomas Weisel Venture Partners and vSpring Capital.

Energy-efficient cooling and energy systems developer Turbine Air Systems raised at least $15m (and possibly up to $50m) in a round led by Element Partners. The Houston-based group is targeting the renewables sector with products such as heat recovery systems for the geothermal and waste-to-energy markets.

Fund news
Anglo-German cleantech specialist WHEB Ventures announced a third closing of its second fund, WHEB Ventures Private Equity 2 LP, at £90m. Investors include family trusts for the Rothschilds and the Bamfords, as well as two German state-backed investors. WHEB also announced a number of new appointments in its Munich office.

Climate Change Capital raised an additional £13.85m for their Ventus Funds, bringing the total to over £50m. The Ventus Funds operate under the VCT regime, and are focused on small-to-medium onshore renewable projects in the UK.

Further reading
Results from Energy Saving Trust field trials suggest limited prospects for the domestic wind turbine market. Such small turbines do work, and have the potential to produce some 3,500GWh annually in the UK (equivalent to about 3.1% of domestic energy demand), but only if they're properly installed in appropriate locations. Previous studies found that, in most cases, output would not justify the installation costs - to be honest, the conclusions of this new report aren't radically different.

Results from the Manchester Report on potential climate change solutions, as trailed in May. Jointly run by the Manchester International Festival and the Guardian newspaper, the project identified 'twenty ideas that could save the world' - most of them familiar to regular readers, and many already in the VC-funded pipeline.

And if you missed it yesterday, the long-awaited UK Low Carbon Transition Plan and other plans from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The highlights from me; coverage in the FT and Guardian; responses from the Carbon Trust and Renewable Energy Association.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Low carbon transition plan, and more

A busy day in policy land, with a suite of strategy documents and grand green plans emerging from Whitehall.

The big one is the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, detailing how the country can meet its binding target of cutting greenhouse emissions by 34% from 1990 levels by 2020 (or, more pertinently, by 18% from 2008 levels).

Key elements, many of which have been previously announced, include producing around 30% of electricity from renewables, overseen by a new government Office for Renewable Energy Deployment; investing £3.2bn in domestic energy efficiency, with smart meters in every home by 2020; major grid investment, with a smart grid 'policy road map' due next spring; and funding up to four CCS demonstration projects, overseen, inevitably, by a new Office of Carbon Capture and Storage.

For more, see the full white paper (pdf 3.8mb).

Plans for supporting business are set out in more detail in the final version of the UK Low Carbon Industrial Strategy (pdf 1.7mb), as announced in March.

I can't see a great deal of hard new information, but there's some details of the first allocations from the £405m low-carbon and green-manufacturing support announced in April's budget: up to £120m for offshore wind; £60m for wave and tidal; £15m to establish a Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre; an extra £10m for electric vehicle charging infrastructure; £6m for renewable construction materials; £12m for green chemicals; and an extra £4 for the Manufacturing Advisory Service.

There's also discussion of a lot of previously announced initiatives, including the UK Innovation Investment Fund intended to 'close the financing gap' for new technologies, including low-carbon tech; and proposals for overhauling the national grid.

Meanwhile, the renewable energy strategy (pdf 4mb) details how the UK might achieve 15% of energy from renewables by 2020, a seven-fold increase on today. As well as 30% of electricity, the plan is for 12% of heat (from biomass, biogas, solar thermal, etc) and 10% of transport energy (from electric vehicles and further rail electrification).

The Renewables Obligation, the main regime for promoting renewable electricity, will be extended (to 2037) and expanded for large-scale generation - although, among other tweaks, RO support will be limited to 20 years for individual projects. Smaller-scale projects will benefit from a Renewable Heat Incentive from 2011 and feed-in tariffs from 2010 for projects of up to 5MW. Details will depend on the ongoing consultation on renewable electricity financial incentives, which is open till October.

Finally, there's more from the Department for Transport on low carbon transport, including proposed criteria for the consumer incentives for electric and plug-in hybrid cars, expected to apply from 2011. For more, see the DfT carbon reduction strategy (pdf 1.5mb).

Friday, 3 July 2009

Clean Sweep 66

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

Next-gen solar cell developer QuantaSol has closed a funding round at just under £2m from existing investors Low Carbon Accelerator and Imperial Innovations. LCA is investing £1.175m in two rounds, and also converting an existing £400k loan into equity.
QuantaSol, a spin-out from Imperial College London, also announced that it has achieved a record efficiency of 28.3% for its single-junctioned gallium-arsenide PV cell. The firm's cells, which it believes are the most efficient single junction cells ever manufactured, are intended for use in concentrating PV systems - the record was set with incident light equivalent to 500 cells. QuantaCell is now preparing to build multi-junction cells of potentially even higher efficiency.

Tyre recycler Crumb Rubber has secured £4m from Foresight Group, a very active investor in waste management businesses.
Based in Plymouth, Crumb converts old tyres into fine rubber powders with a range of uses including replica slate tiles.

Bringing cleantech to cleaning, Leeds University spin-out Xeros raised £920k from investors led by Enterprise Ventures. The firm is commercialising a laundry process using polymer beads which it says can cut water use by 90%. Xeros has already partnered with US group GreenEarth Cleaning to sell its product in North America.

French renewables developer Neoen has raised Euro20m from Crédit Agricole Private Equity's Capenergie fund and the Louis Dreyfus group. Paris-based Neoen is a majority-owned subsidiary of the Direct Energie group, and operates solar, wind and biomass projects.

Paris-based climate change intelligence firm Climpact raised Euro4m from NextStage and existing investor Elaia Partners. A spin-out from Institut Pierre Simon Laplace, Climpact provides business and climate data to help clients manage weather-related risks.

Californian solar installer SPG Solar closed a $13m round led by Global Environment Fund and Robeco. The new funds support national and international growth and materials sourcing.

And Colorado-based algal start-up Solix Biofuels closed its first round at $16.8m. Shanghai Alliance Investment joined a suite of US VCs in the round, which had previously been announced at $10.5m last November.
The funding supports the completion of the firm's Coyote Gulch demonstration facility, which is scheduled to start biodiesel production by the end of summer.

Fund news
Abu Dhabi's Masdar initiative is preparing a new cleantech fund of at least $250m. Its current $250m Masdar Clean Tech Fund, launched in 2006 in partnership with Credit Suisse, Consensus Business Group and Siemens, is already fully invested.

Further reading
Second quarter investment stats from the usual sources -
New Energy Finance (pdf 20kb) finds a strong bounceback in Europe thanks to big deals in offshore wind and solar. Total investment in clean energy totalled $24.3bn, almost double Q1's but still down on last year's figures. Total VC funding reached $1.2bn, but is still showing a disproportionate fall from previous highs.
GTM Research counted over $1.2bn VC in 85 companies, up by almost half on Q1 figures. Solar again led with $330m total, and marked increases in automotive and energy storage.
And the Cleantech Group also counted $1.2bn VC in 94 companies - but with just $114m for solar, the lowest total for three years, and transportation in the lead.

The new Clean Tech Revolution campaign from the UK government-backed Carbon Trust aims to quantify the economic benefits of cleantech commercialisation. The UK could generate up to £70 billion for the economy and almost 250,000 jobs in offshore wind and wave power alone, they reckon.

The Renewable Energy Snapshots (pdf 290kb) from the EC's Joint Research Centre detail the contribution of wind, solar and biomass towards the 2020 targets. Current capacity exceeds the 2010 targets proposed in 1997, but more investment in infrastructure and distribution is needed.

PwC's Capitalizing on a climate of change report details the likely impact of climate change and related issues on fundraising and M&A, noting:
In addition to the increasing importance of carbon in M&A activity, capital-raising transactions can be expected to increase in the clean technology field[...]It is becoming progressively more apparent that the public perceives clean technology companies as investments capable of generating a profitable return.