cleantech insights

The Weight Watchers Approach to More Sustainable Eating (i.e., manage what you measure)

Dan Saccardi

I recently concluded a yearlong experiment to track what I ate on a daily basis, not to count calories but to measure, and manage, my environmental impact.

As a sustainability consultant, I’ve counseled clients that “you can only manage what you measure.” But I’ve not as rigorously applied this adage to my personal life. So, to borrow another, I decided to practice what I preached.

I’ll get to the data shortly—no consulting effort is complete without a graph or two. But beyond the statistics, I gleaned the following insights from this endeavor.

First, the simple process of recording* my lunch and dinners (despite it being the most important meal of the day, I don’t typically eat breakfast and didn’t want to pad the stats with the occasional “vegetarian meal” of a banana) sparked conscious deliberation over literally every meal choice I made. Such deliberateness brought back front and center considerations that have become, with the rise of commercial-scale food production, so far removed from the dining process generally, and my dining experience in particular.

Second, I quickly became hooked on seeing my stats tick up (or down). This competitiveness did what guilt and intellectual awareness couldn’t—an awareness dating back to …


The Week in Cleantech – Nov. 19 – 25


Americans may have spent last Thursday and Friday ceremoniously consuming turkey and taking naps over our Thanksgiving holiday, but that didn’t stop the world of cleantech innovation from soldiering on. The week saw three sizable venture capital rounds:

Compressed-air energy storage startup General Compression closed the final tranche of its Series B round, bringing the total to $60 million. The company is developing its first utility-scale demonstration project in Texas, featuring its GCAES (TM) technology utilizing a salt cavern with the aim of storing intermittent wind generation for use on demand. The round was led by Northwater Capital Management and included strategic investors ConocoPhillips and Duke Energy, among others.

Electric bus maker Proterra closed on a $23 million growth equity round from new investors Hennessey Capital and NMT Capital, along with existing investors Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, GM Ventures, Mitsui & Co. Global Investment, 88 Green Ventures and Vision Ridge Partners. Proterra is reportedly looking to ship between 40 and 60 buses in 2013.

And finally, ICR Turbine Engine, a New Hampshire-based company developing a gas turbine replacement for traditional diesel engines, raised $10 million in its Series A round from New Venture

The Week in Cleantech – Nov. 12 – 18


Clean technology is a mighty diverse space, with technological innovation occurring in everything from solar cells to clean water to recycling technologies. In any given week, month, or quarter, venture investors can see something new and inspiring and make a big bet on the next game changer. A promising young start up can have a break through with their own scientists or with a big new partnership. In our Quarterly Investment Monitor, released last week and available here for subscribers, we try to add color to the trends across these many sectors and geographies so that you, the potential investors, partners, and entrepreneurs in these next new ventures, can move forward with the knowledge necessary to be successful.

In a given week, it can be difficult to identify any such trends or any one company demonstrating promise, but it’s possible that algal oils company Solazyme showed us something last week. The company formed two exciting new partnerships – with Archer Daniels Midland for production capacity and Propel Fuels for a go-to-market channel – and expanded an existing joint venture with Bunge for renewable oil production in Brazil.

In venture capital, we saw several companies in different cleantech sectors raise …

The S-Curve Index: Week of November 19, 2012

Jill Bunting

This week’s index number is 2017, which, according to the International Energy Agency, is the year the U.S. will overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer. The U.S. is projected to be a net exporter of oil by 2030.

These developments will create a cloudy horizon for stakeholders invested in improving environmental performance. With U.S. energy “independence” within sight, we may see a renewed focus on energy efficiency standards and programs aimed at pushing the U.S. over the line. At the same time, low prices and a sense of plentiful reserves could depress efforts to develop fossil fuel alternatives. This is particularly relevant for countries like China and India, where lower prices for oil and gas will also put downward pressure on the price of imported coal.

This is the first entry in our new weekly series, The S-Curve Index, where we highlight a number that’s impacting the world of sustainability. Click here for more information about the S-Curve and our approach to environmental innovation.  This post was originally published on GreenOrder’s blog.

Undeniable Evidence

Heather Matheson

This past weekend New Yorkers had another opportunity to see and experience our changing climate, fortunately in the comforts of a local movie theater. The documentary film “Chasing Ice”  opened Friday in NYC, and more cities will be screening it in the coming weeks. The film, directed by Jeff Orlowski documents National Geographic photographer James Balog’s tireless work capturing undeniable time-lapse images of the world’s changing glaciers. The New York Times called the film “stunning…and undeniably convincing imagery.”

Sandy was very real for thousands along the Eastern seaboard. The widespread and visible devastation has provided another wake-up call. The blunt article “Its Global Warming, Stupid” and Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement of President Obama highlight this reality. Like Hurricane Sandy, “Chasing Ice” presents another part of the visual story of Earth’s changing climate. Balog’s images demonstrate the power behind capturing the real thing.

As more people see and experience the impacts of our changing climate and resource challenges, innovation in clean technologies is more important than ever.  We’ll continue to need innovation in global mitigation as well as new ways to adapt locally and prepare for future impacts. From improving our electric grid, addressing storm surging areas, to solving water and drought …

The Week in Cleantech – Nov. 5 – 11


Investors are still showing cleantech companies some love when able to find the right deals.

The last few quarters have seen the average cleantech venture capital round size shrink right alongside total quarterly investment figures, and we’ve noted that investors are becoming a bit more tight-fisted in the face of serious political and structural sector headwinds. Last week, however, GigaOm uncovered a regulatory filing disclosing BrightSource Energy‘s intent to up its already-large $80 million round from October to $130 million. Meanwhile, we saw two very respectable growth equity rounds with LightSail Energy (compressed air energy storage) raising $37 million, and Transonic Combustion (efficient internal combustion engines) raising $32 million.

In partnership news, we found out that building efficiency startup SCIenergy seems to be moving beyond its recent legal and management struggles with three big new property management customers. Shorenstein, Lend Lease, and LBA Realty will all be installing the company’s energy management tools in select managed properties as SCIenergy announced that its space-under-management has grown from 15 million square feet two years ago to 150 million square feet today.

Finally, in fund news, Google announced that it would be upping its annual outlay for its corporate venture arm, Google

Musings on Microgrids

Yakov Berenshteyn

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’ve seen a renewed focus in the media on climate change. As it so often does, the conversation points to technology as a lever for both mitigation and adaptation.

Microgrids in particular are suddenly top of mind again, covered in MIT Technology Review, Fast Company, Christian Science Monitor, and Huffington Post in a span of just five days. These pieces praise microgrids for enabling distributed renewables (mitigation) and taking critical customers like hospitals off the main power grid in emergencies (adaptation).

While we applaud any effort to raise awareness of clean technology, it’s important not to have a knee-jerk response to climate events like Sandy. In the case of microgrids, it’s not what these authors wrote – but rather what they didn’t write – that has us giving a word of caution: the latest reports lay out microgrids’ great technological benefits, but give little advice as to how an institutional or commercial electricity customer should navigate the overwhelmingly complex regulatory structure behind utility operations in order to actually develop and deploy a microgrid.

In many regions of the US, the reality is that it will be up to the utilities and …

A “disruptive” blog post…


The term “disruptive” is thrown around by just about everyone these days – investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and even Cleantech Group!  I fear the word is doomed to follow the same projected path of the word “sustainability”…   Before heading too far down that road, I’d like to get in my two cents on some of the water technologies I perceive to be “disruptive” in today’s world.

  • Amoeba.  A majority of commercial and industrial cooling tower operators have used the same [chemical] treatment system for decades and are hesitant to try anything new, even in the face of rising water and energy costs.  Many alternative treatment systems have been on the market for over a decade, but market penetration has been slow.  Non-oxidizing agents such as biocides, though more expensive, are increasingly being tested and talked about.
  • Axine Water Technologies.  According to data tracked through i3, over a quarter (27%) of venture capital dollars in the first half of 2012 went to companies providing solutions primarily applicable to industrial water users.  The growing presence and importance of this consumer segment stems from concerns around toxicity of wastewater streams, the use of treatment chemicals (and potential creation of byproducts), discharge

Taxonomy is a Boring Word

Tim Barham

In late August, Cleantech Group announced that it had released an “improved and expanded taxonomy” for the i3 platform. For the casual observer, it could be understandable to respond to this announcement with a gentle yawn. After all, Webster defines taxonomy as “the classification of something”, which would seem to make the announcement akin to alphabetizing a bookshelf rather than making disruptive strides in the cleantech space.

However, in order to fully appreciate the significance and success of the new taxonomy, one must take a gigantic step back and think about the contemporary connotation of cleantech as a whole. The term “cleantech” itself is incredibly vague and means different things to different people. This, in turn, can lead to confusion and oversimplification. While chatting with a friend recently, I actually asked him what cleantech was. His response: “I don’t know, like windmills and reusable tote bags and stuff?” While this may seem like a silly answer, it is somewhat illustrative of the kind of cloudiness that can surround a highly technical and diversified space.

This is really where the taxonomy comes in to play. If i3 is the boat that allows global players to navigate through cloudy waters, …

The Week in Cleantech – 10/29 – 11/4


It was an exciting week in cleantech with investment news and new partnerships formed across several sectors. Some highlights:

It was disclosed via an Israel Corporation regulatory filing that Israeli EV charging infrastructure company Better Place is planning another $100 million venture capital raise to support its work developing a network of battery switching and charging stations in its home country and in Denmark. Israel Corporation, the holding company controlled by Better Place chairman Idan Ofer and already one of Better Place’s largest investors, is expected to lead the round with up to a $67 million investment.

In mergers & acquisitions, Safety-Kleen, the Plano, Texas based provider of industrial cleaning and recycling products and services that’s been preparing for a $400 million IPO, instead agreed to sell itself to environmental, energy, and industrial service provider Clean Harbors for $1.25 billion. It is Clean Harbors’ fourth acquisition in the industry in two years.

In the biofuels space, Danish company Novozymes and Italian developer of non-food, cellulosic biomass feedstocks Beta Renewables formed a joint venture. Under the deal, Novozymes will become the preferred enzyme supplier for Beta Renewables’ plants designed to produce cellulosic ethanol from wood, grasses and inedible parts of …