cleantech
cleantech insights

China’s Smog Triggers Investment in Air Pollution Mitigation

Wendy Bao

During the opening keynote at Cleantech Forum San Francisco 2014, Cleantech Group CEO, Sheeraz Haji, stepped on the stage while wearing a facemask commonly seen in China. Attendees immediately realized his reference to the infamous air pollution problem in China. According to China’s Development Research Center of the State Council, smoggy weather costs China approximately $100 billion a year. To mitigate such loss, Chinese government plans to invest $290 billion for air pollution treatment technologies from 2013 to 2017, said Xiaoqing Wu, Vice-Minister of the China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection. These investments and mandates by the government will create a huge market demand for innovating technologies within the Air sector.

 China Investment in Air

Per chart below, desirable investment environment created by the urgent needs for air pollution mitigation technologies resulted in a peak in investments last year. According to Cleantech Group’s i3 Platform, deal count in the Air sector rose from just two deals to ten deals between 2012 and 2013. We saw leading global ventures such as Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB),  Qualcomm Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, along with local ventures such as Qiming Venture Partners and TusPark Ventures actively investing in the Air

Share/Bookmark

Obama, Wal-Mart, and the Changing Face of Cleantech

James Mwaura

obama walmart

When it was announced that President Barack Obama’s west coast swing would conclude in Mountain View, CA (home of Google, LinkedIn, and a variety of other tech starlets), the location of his speech took a lot of people by surprise – Wal-Mart. Despite being in the heart of Silicon Valley, 40 minutes away from the bustle of San Francisco, and a stone’s throw from Stanford University, Obama chose the Mountain View branch of a behemoth retailer which is far from representative of Silicon Valley and seems like an odd choice for a speech centered on energy efficiency.

Or was it? As it turns out, Wal-Mart is a great example of the huge role that large corporations are playing in the clean energy economy. The branch in Mountain View has replaced many of its in-store lighting fixtures with ultra-high efficiency LEDs, added two electric vehicle charging ports in its parking lot, and installed solar arrays on its roof. Wal-Mart, in fact, has more solar installed than any other company in the United States, and has 335 renewable energy projects in operation or development, generating over 24% of the electricity that its stores consume. Wal-Mart, like many other corporates, is quietly yet …

This Deal Matters: Cool Planet Energy Systems Closes Series D Funding; Corporates Bet on Advanced Biofuel and Rising Activities in Asia

Leo Zhang

cool planetCool Planet Energy Systems, the Colorado-based developer of advanced drop-in fuels and biochar, announced a $50.7 million investment and the closing of the company’s $100 million Series D growth equity round. Cool Planet’s latest investors include Concord Energy Holdings, a Singapore-based crude oil trading company, which led the round with existing investor North Bridge Venture Partners. Other existing investors include BP Ventures, ConocoPhillips, Energy Technology Ventures, Exelon Capital Partners, General Electric, Google Ventures, NRG Energy, and Shea Ventures. The new investment, along with Cool Planet’s strategic corporate investors, will help to expedite the company’s 10 million gallon per year biofuel facility in Louisiana. The timing of this deal is significant in that it demonstrates corporate interests in bio-based drop-in fuels, especially given the ongoing commercialization struggle of another high-profile drop-in fuel company, KiOR, which private investor Vinod Khosla has recently committed an additional $25 million from his personal trust to continue supporting the company.

This deal also matters as it is the second deal of back-to-back investments into biofuel companies, following a $60 million growth equity round raised by LanzaTech just a week ago. Notably, we have observed increasing …

Wanxiang’s Purchase of Fisker Highlights Increasing Chinese Cross-Border Investment

Gannon McHenry

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge approved Wanxiang Group’s bid for Fisker Automotive last Tuesday. The deal was a combination offer of cash and equity worth $150 million. Rather than simply incorporating the intellectual property and assets of Fisker into Wanxiang’s existing brands, the company plans to restart production of the Fisker Karma in a matter of months. Wanxiang previously bought the assets of Fisker’s battery supplier, A123 Systems, following its bankruptcy filing in October of 2012. Wanxiang believes the synergies achieved through owning both A123 and Fisker will result in stronger financial and competitive positions for both companies.

Wanxiang’s purchase of Fisker follows a positive trend among Chinese companies, who are increasingly looking outside of their border for potential acquisitions. Following years of little to no international acquisition activity, Chinese companies and investors began to acquire foreign companies at an increasing rate following an off-and-on start in 2008. Following this trend, 2013 was a landmark year in cross border acquisition by Chinese organizations, recording the largest number of deals to date. Hanergy has been a notable prolific foreign investor, scooping up distressed solar companies including MiaSoleSolibro and Global Solar Energy over the past two years. The global …

Harvesting Innovation: The Changing Face of African Agriculture

Brett Richardson

Africa is in the midst of an agricultural revolution, with innovation driving new avenues for increased crop yields, better resource and capital operating efficiencies, and general farm management knowledge. Africa is home to almost 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, or about 60% of  the world’s total. This contrasts the fact that 1/3rd of sub-Saharan Africans are undernourished, with population expected to grow to 1.2 billion people by 2050. The cleantech world is driving the changing scope of African agriculture with an influx of new companies offering innovative solutions which will alleviate stresses to the current system and support farmers.

global uncultivated caption

Both local and international startups are addressing some of the most basic challenges of agricultural production in Africa. 20%, or 4 billion dollars of grain harvest, is lost every year and 35-50% of fruit and vegetables spoil from crop and storage pests. UK based companies Plant Health Care and Exosect are targeting this inefficiency with pilot projects in Africa using their proprietary crop protection technologies. Plant Health Care provides natural pesticides which leaves no residual impact on the environment and helps to activate certain defensive and growth responses. Exosect also makes bio-control pesticides that can be applied to …

Obama Executive Order: Triple Renewable Energy Usage

Mosaic

[originally posted on Mosaic's blog]

President Obama used to campaign on his theme of hope and change.  Despite numerous political hurdles and geopolitical events that have diverted his attention since his 2008 election, it can proudly be said that the president has taken another step towards bringing about positive change. In his second State of the Union address, President Obama lifted the hearts of environmentally-conscious people everywhere with his bold statement “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more.  But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”  Though the rhetoric was there, actual change was certainly slower in coming to fruition.

Today, President Obama issued an executive order (bypassing the inefficiency of Congress) to mandate that the federal government (including the military) triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, at which point renewable power would provide 20 percent of the government’s energy.

Setting a good example

According to …

One Bed, One Dream: some learnings from the 2013 China Cleantech Tour

Richard Youngman

November 3-8 I had the honor and pleasure of leading Cleantech Group’s 3rd annual Cleantech Tour of China, an intense week of activities to help 13 companies and investors meet key players in China, to learn about the market and to think through potential entry strategies and partners. Over the week we met with over 100 organizations. Had I written a summary letter to the group, summarizing the experience and the learnings, this is what it might have looked like.

Dear 2013 Tour Party Members, (representatives of Advenira, Bowman Power, Electranova Capital, Enlighted, E.ON (Strategic Co-investments), Generation Investment Management, Idinvest Partners, NexSteppe, Silicon Valley Bank, Sol Voltaics, Solexant, sunfire and van Dyne Superturbo)

I think you just learned why it is imperative to always approach China with as open a mind as possible. Each time I take a group like you, of companies and investors, on our annual Cleantech Tour of China, I am always struck how pre-conceptions get challenged during the week, and how much, during the week, people begin to see and appreciate how fast the market dynamics change and how different the …

To Do China Right, Enjoy the Food: 12 Gems For Growing Your Business in China

Josh Seidenfeld

Last Friday, Cleantech Group, Silicon Valley Bank, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati convened an intimate group including investors (Dow Venture Capital, Keytone Ventures, Khosla Ventures, The Westly Group), corporate innovation leaders (ABB, Applied Materials, Siemens), and startups (Efficiency Exchange, Gridium, NexSteppe, Scoot Networks) for a Power Breakfast focused on strategies for working in China. A panel of investors, bankers, attorneys, and startup CEOs with deep experience working in China led the conversation, moderated by Cleantech Group’s CEO, Sheeraz Haji (see a couple interesting slides from Sheeraz’ presentation at the end of the post.)

We promised not to attribute quotes so participants would feel more comfortable speaking their minds, but here are a dozen highlights from the experts:

  1. Enjoy the food. Personal connections drive business in China. One panelist mused, “Once you start enjoying food with people you really start to get to know one another.”
  2. Wear the mandarin hat. One seasoned investor recalled how he was advised to make clear to Chinese counterparts “what’s in it for them.” But, he added, the euphemism “wear the mandarin hat” sounds better. The need to align partnerships

Energy innovation opens doors for the world’s 1.3B “energy-poor”

Josh Seidenfeld

InterSolar is on this week in San Francisco. While it’s been a rough year for the upstream folks, and the tradeshow floor may have a New-Year’s-Day-hangover feel about it (notable exception: the focus on the burgeoning energy storage field), some bright spots emerge. As I nurse my own hangover from last night’s Solar Battle of the Bands, I’m reflecting on a terrific side-event that featured some of the world’s most exciting energy innovators.

The Bay Area Energy Access Working Group (a name only an engineer could love) yesterday convened entrepreneurs blazing pathways out of energy poverty. The group, hosted by Google.org at Google’s San Francisco offices, shared new approaches to delivering energy services to some of the 1.3 billion energy-poor people across the globe. New financial tools, new communication technologies, and new business models drive energy innovation in the developing world just as they do in the rich world. The event’s three panels addressed these drivers.

Finance innovation might be the most important current development. Many of the technologies used to deliver life-altering energy services to off-grid, rural communities have long been established. Solar lanterns come to mind. Now, though, we require the money to deploy these technologies at scale. …

Cleantech è di moda in Italia. Under the Radar in the World.

Michele Parad

Over the last year we have had the pleasure of working with Italy Cleantech Network to help catalyse more connectivity between innovation activities in Italy, and the international Cleantech innovation ecosystem – believing both stand to benefit. Into the 10th year of Cleantech Group being active in Europe and, to date, we had seen surprisingly little of Italy – given its status as the world’s 9th largest economy and one of Europe’s most diversified from an industrial activity viewpoint. We set out to change that through the co-hosting of an event in Rome and having Italian delegations visit recent Cleantech Forums.

The conclusion we have reached? There is much more going on within Italian Cleantech than we all know about. Here are some good reasons for you to find out more:

The Politics: The Italian Parliament is keen to help start-ups flourish and have passed a number of laws, including an Innovation bill in December 2012, to support start-ups, venture capital and crowd-funding. The country has also declared ambitious targets for the solar heating and cooling sector, and has established various subsidies, tax deduction incentive schemes and Conto Energia Termico (feed-in-tariffs) for the renewables space.

The New Ventures: In …