| December 3rd 2012
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 …
by Greg Neichin
| May 18th 2012
Given the pace at which the business world moves these days, there is often not enough time for thoughtful reflection. It can be all too easy to get lost in last week’s meetings and next week’s deadlines and to completely miss the forest for the trees. With the amount of information that we all try to consume on a daily basis, it is easy to mistake a headline for a trend, hyperbole for fact.
Luckily, that’s where we come in. Consider us your “Outsourced Reflection”. Every quarter, for the past 7 years, we have published a comprehensive quarterly manifesto – Cleantech Group’s Quarterly Investment Monitor. Frankly, I think that this exercise is more important than ever. As we wrote in opening this edition:
2012 has started on a similar note [to the end of 2011] with a rising number of cleantech companies funded despite a continuing public and media fascination with the sector’s high profile failures. In responding to erroneous press accounts of his own death, noted American author Mark Twain once wrote, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” The same could be said of cleantech.
If all you read in the last three months was news of …
by Greg Neichin
| January 27th 2012
If you are in the cleantech sector and had not previously heard about Lanzatech, you likely have now. The company raised a big, $55.8M round last week that has been widely applauded and covered. Students of the company had seen this coming for awhile. Lanzatech was the highest ranking company in the Asia Pacific region in our Cleantech 100 survey earning it “APAC Company of the Year” at our gala banquet last year. It was featured as part of GTM’s Trendspotting post on the Top 12 Greentech Startups to Watch in 2012. We’ve made Lanzatech our featured “Company of the Week” in i3 this week, but it may just turn out to be cleantech’s company of the year (and its only January!). Here are the top reasons that I think Lanzatech exemplifies a number of key themes happening in cleantech:
1.) Cross-Border Financings – I have previously written about Chinese and Korean investors taking large stakes in Western cleantech companies. Now we can add the Malaysians to that list. The round was led by the Malaysian Life Sciences Capital Fund and included participation from Malaysian state oil company, Petronas. With the US venture community still experiencing …
by Greg Neichin
| December 29th 2011
It’s that time of the year when pundits and prognosticators begin to opine about what will happen in 2012. Frankly, I don’t like this game. In mid-2001, I worked for a technology “futurist” firm and wrote a piece predicting that CD-R/W music players would continue to dominate in the year ahead. That was a couple months before the ipod came on the market and made me look like a fool. Not that I mind looking like a fool, but I think I’ve shied away from these declarations ever since.
However, I was inspired this week by Rob Day (@cleantechvc) to throw my hat back into the ring. Why? Because Rob actually went back and wrote a post critiquing the predictions he made from the previous year. I found this remarkable precisely because most analysts write these odes with zero accountability. As an investor, Rob actually has to bet on his predictions, so I enjoyed his self-critique. I promise to do the same – someone hold me to it!
So without further adieu, here are my top 5, slightly irreverent, predictions for cleantech internationally in the year ahead. Why international? Because I’ve spent most of the last 6 …
by Hans Chen
| July 6th 2011
On June 10th, 2011, Huaneng Renewable Energy Holding, the renewable energy (predominately wind energy) subsidiary of state-owned power company China Huaneng Group, raised HK$6.23 billion (~$800 million) through its second attempt at an IPO on Hong Kong Stock Exchange.
It would turn out to be the largest cleantech IPO globally in 2Q 2011. After Sinovel Wind Group’s $1.4 billion IPO in 1Q 2011, it’s likely that we will get used to at least one gigantic IPO in China every quarter these days.
It’s already the third IPO on the China/Hong Kong stock markets for a wind energy subsidiary of a state-owned power company. Of the five major Chinese state-owned power companies, Guodian, Datang and Huaneng have already had their wind energy subsidiaries making public market debuts. The remaining two, Huadian and China Power Investment, both already established renewable energy subsidiaries.
The story here seems to be: Wind energy in China was boosted by lucrative subsidies. Rich power companies invested billions of RMB to establish renewable business. These businesses, aided by huge financial support from parent companies, are able to develop rapidly and go public in a relatively short amount of time, bringing even more capital.
by Stephen Marcus
| May 31st 2011
As an analyst following the day to day happenings in green transportation, I often feel that the industry blindly accepts that the majority of the future economic opportunity for EVs is in China. Many articles often rehash the usual drivers of near double digit GDP growth, powerful government edicts, and poor urban air quality to support their statements. It certainly makes a strong case.
However, whilst the potential market for EVs in China is obviously HUGE, it is important to dig deeper in order to specifically assess the suitability of EVs as a solution to Chinese consumers rather than get overly excited every time the “C-word” is dropped into the equation. What will make Chinese buy electric vehicles over traditional ICE vehicles? Simply saying the economy is growing fast and air quality is poor, in my book, is not enough.
When taken from this standpoint, the opportunity for EVs in China looks less rosy for at least three reasons:
- Price Sensitive Consumers: It is important to recognize that EVs will, at least for a number of years, command a significant ($10-15k) price premium over traditional ICE vehicles. And even though China’s economy is growing fast, the lion’s share of car
by Hans Chen
| May 25th 2011
Think the Chinese Communist Party never admits a mistake? Think again.
The rare occurrence happened earlier this week, when China’s State Council, the country’s Cabinet, said in an official statement that while the Three Gorges Dam “provides huge comprehensive benefits, urgent problems must be resolved regarding the smooth relocation of residents, ecological protection and geological disaster prevention”. This was the first ever official acknowledgement of the dam’s negative impact.
Some background information: Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest capacity hydroelectric dam (total generating capacity of 18,200 MW) located in the mid stream of Yangtze River, the longest river in Asia. Also, it is probably the most controversial water project in the history of mankind, as political, humanitarian and environmental issues were brought up constantly by the opposition.
One would argue that such gigantic hydro power project is not really “clean energy” because the construction itself often has a negative impact on the environment, not to mention the CO2 emission just to produce all the concrete needed. That is a valid argument, of course. But when a country with 1.3 billion people generates 75% of its electricity via coal-fired thermal power, hydroelectric power looks pretty clean.
Many people …
by Stephen Marcus
| May 4th 2011
India faces a formidable challenge in meeting the growing energy demands of its vast population and in providing clean energy at competitive prices.
India Energy Consumption Levels
Source: BP Statistical Review 2010
It therefore doesn’t help that India suffers huge electricity losses during transmission and distribution of between 30-45%. India consequently had an energy generation deficit of approximately 10% in 2009–2010 and a respective peak load deficit of 13.3%. The electricity shortages often cause halts in valuable economic output with an estimated cost of 5-6% of GDP every year.
What can be done about such a problem?
Much of the high rate of electricity loss is attributed to India’s focus on building new energy generation capacity at the expense of investment in grid improvements and advanced metering and monitoring solutions. This needs to change. It is clear to me that the best way to do it is to make more efficient use of the energy that is already produced rather than continuing to add more capacity.
Improving the way electricity is transmitted and distributed is likely to play a vital role in reducing base load power demands and will remove the cost of building additional power generation plants. This will …
by Hans Chen
| April 21st 2011
The Cold War is already part of our history textbook. For the past 20 years, the Americans have lived their lives without having to think about the nemesis, Soviet Union.
Life is good, right?
In 2000, at a time when Americans were enjoying prosperity and innovation, a high school teacher asked his American Government class, “which country do you think will become our next ‘nemesis’?” The flurry of answers included Germany, Japan, a “Unified Europe” and even Russia.
“Let me tell you what. It will be China,” the teacher said.
Sitting in the front row, I was not the only student who doubted that statement in the classroom. But after 11 years, it’s probable that no one would have any doubt in that statement. China has become a monster and we all know it. Moreover, unlike the Soviet Union, China is embracing capitalism in a totalitarian way, making the Chinese version of capitalism more efficient, in some ways, than the American version.
Just recently China announced its 12th Five-Year Plan, emphasizing cleantech more than ever. 70 billion watts of wind power, 5 billion watts of solar power, 11.4% non-fossil-fuel energy generation by 2015, 40%~50% reduction in CO2 emission…the …
by David Cheng
| April 20th 2011
A few weeks ago, my Facebook exploded at 4AM. My South Asian friends from around the world descended upon my activity feed to cyber cheer on India during the 2011 Cricket World Cup Final (I unfortunately do not have any Sri Lankan friends to balance out the pro-India crowd). While I was ignorant about cricket, I knew from my friends’ enthusiasm that this wasn’t just a game but also a declaration of India’s pride on an international scale. This is something I know a bit about having cheered on Team USA in South Africa at the FIFA World Cup last summer. So I did a little digging while the match was going on (even the One Day matches are long) and I soon got caught up in the spectacle of India’s historic run to become the World Cup champions. That experience got me thinking about India’s run in energy and cleantech. So I did a little digging and here is what I found.