cleantech insights

The Week in Cleantech – December 10 – 16


Cleantech-focused venture investors appeared last week to be getting out the year’s last investment dollars before the holidays, as several companies raised sizable rounds across multiple sectors. The week’s biggest piece of news, however, came on Thursday when SolarCity listed its much anticipated initial public offering on the NASDAQ, raising $92 million. The company had been expected to list on Wednesday, but ended up delaying after it became clear on Tuesday night that it would need to lower its initial valuation. Successful IPO exits have been tough to come by in cleantech lately, and despite the last minute controversy surrounding SolarCity’s float, the offering appears to have generated positive returns for the company’s investors and could do a lot to unfreeze public markets for clean technology start-ups. See this post for deeper analysis of SolarCity’s IPO and how it might affect similar companies in the Solar sector.

And now for the week’s big raisers of private capital:

Solar thin-film module manufacturer Stion raised $25 million in a growth equity round from Khosla Ventures, Braemar Energy Ventures, General Catalyst Partners, Lightspeed Venture Partners, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company. Thin film technologies have suffered from the same …


SolarCity’s IPO: Which other companies are poised for solar success?


SolarCity made its much-bally-hooed debut in public market trading yesterday, raising $92 million through the sale of 11.5 million shares. Although the company did not arrive at the valuation it had hoped for, it looks to have created positive returns for its investors (though a number of those investors are purchasing large quantities of new common shares and will still own about 80 percent of the company).

Such exits have been hard to come by in cleantech lately, and it’s hoped that a successful SolarCity IPO could unfreeze public markets for other cleantech companies.

SolarCity was a good candidate to test these waters, mainly because its good project pipeline, financing partners and a national footprint represented tangible value to the market where other recent planned or withdrawn cleantech IPOs have banked on future projects or planned production capacity. In addition, its position in the downstream market of solar installations has meant that SolarCity has actually benefited from the same plunge in solar panel prices that has bankrupted many upstream solar manufacturers.

This business model distinction – of upstream versus downstream solar – could be key in seeing companies similar to SolarCity through the IPO window. Here are five companies addressing …

How Behavioral Science Can Increase Energy Efficiency Adoption

Sam Shrank

Since setting up auto-pay the day I moved into my apartment, I’ve given no thought to my utility bill. Given that my job is to analyze and advise utilities, I’d venture to say most people are no more engaged. However, with an evolving set of customer offerings—energy efficiency (EE), alternative fuel vehicles, demand response, and the like—many utilities are realizing that they may require better, different, or more communication. In short, they are discovering what it means to sell.

And not only are they beginning to market things customers may not feel they need, they now have competitors as well, particularly in the EE market. Various other entities are looking to advise large electricity and gas users about how to lower their bills and provide help with financing, sell devices directly to customers that increase automation and control, or take over the utility’s role as the provider of EE offerings funded through utility bill surcharges. All of these reduce both the direct benefit to utilities from performance incentives and the indirect benefits from higher customer satisfaction, improved regulatory relationships, and perceived leadership.

Mining the extensive body of knowledge on consumer behavior provides insight on how utilities can more effectively communicate …

The Week in Cleantech – Dec. 3 – 9


Last week saw a wave of venture investment in clean technology. Specifically, companies in the Energy Efficiency sector seemed top-of-mind for investors as Next Step Living, Tendril, and Powervation raised rounds.

Boston, Massachusetts-based Next Step Living raised $18.2 million in a growth equity round from Black Coral Capital, BlueWave Capital, VantagePoint Capital Partners, and the Massachusetts Green Energy Fund. The company is a provider of home energy diagnostics and retrofit services to the residential market. The target round amount is $24 million.

Tendril, the Boulder, Colorado-based provider of a home energy management SaaS platform that facilitates interaction within the energy ecosystem and provides utility solutions, raised $15 million in a growth equity round from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Bregal Energy, General Electric, RRE Ventures, and Siemens Venture Capital. The round was the bow tied on Tendril’s restructuring, which the company says has left it in a profitable position as it looks to complete a $50 million deployment project with Duke Energy.

And finally, San Jose, California-based Powervation raised $7 million in a growth equity round from Braemar Energy Ventures, Intel Capital, Enterprise Ireland, and VentureTech Alliance. The …

The S-Curve Indicator – December 3, 2012

Jill Bunting

This week’s indicator number is 3 percent, which was the increase in global carbon emissions in 2011 according to a new study published Sunday. The study’s authors predict another 2.6 percent jump in emissions in 2012. Given these developments, scientists say we are unlikely to meet the United Nations goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the absence of governmental leadership on emissions—the current Doha climate talks being no exception—large companies continue to play a leading role in climate change advocacy and action. Shell, Unilever, and other leading companies recently called for a “clear” price on carbon to limit global emissions. Companies continue to set ambitious goals for absolute reductions in the carbon emissions associated with their own operations and, increasingly, their supply chains and products. Regardless of government activity, we anticipate the growing sophistication of carbon accounting tools and investor interest in carbon disclosure to continue to drive corporate progress on emissions.

This is an entry in our weekly series, The S-Curve Indicator, 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

A Thirsty Tourist in Thailand


I spent Thanksgiving week traveling through Thailand.  It was my first trip there, and hopefully not my last – the country is amazing!  I love the people, the culture, the food, the views….and the free bottled water?  Yes, you read that correctly – free bottled water.  In Thailand, it is standard to receive 2-3 complimentary bottles of water in your hotel room, despite assurance from the government that the tap water is safe to drink.  As most tourists do, I erred on the side of “better safe than sorry”, and took the bottled water.  Though I must admit, I was somewhat ashamed to do so.

Isn’t the tap water in Thailand subject to WHO guidelines for drinking water quality, which would ensure that I am protected from harmful contaminants?  Doesn’t the organization pride itself on “producing international norms on water quality and human health in the form of guidelines that are used as the basis for regulation and standard setting, in developing and developed countries world-wide”?  Indeed it does, but I overlooked the difference between a guideline and a requirement – an extremely important distinction.  Guidelines are mere recommendations or targets that help ensure the quality of …

The Week in Cleantech – Nov. 26 – Dec. 2


Last week was an exciting one in cleantech, with lots of funding news and new relationships announced. Funding news was led by the US Department of Energy’s ARPA-E, which announced $130 million in 66 new R&D grants, many of which were made to small, privately held cleantech companies. Browse to ARPA-E’s profile to see who got funding.

Elsewhere in funding news, we saw two large venture equity investments last week, as both FriedolaTECH and Clean Line Energy Partners raised $40 million rounds.

FriedolaTECH, a German recycled plastics processor, raised its funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Silver Lake Kraftwerk, the first co-investment by these two fund managers. A portion of the invested total did go to a share purchase from WHEB Partners, which remains an investor in FriedolaTECH, but the remainder will help the company expand its American division with a new facility in Greenville, South Carolina.

Clean Line Energy Partners a Houston-based developer of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission projects to support renewable generation, raised its $40 million from new strategic investor National Grid, a major investor-owned electric and gas company active in the UK and the eastern US. Clean Line will …