cleantech insights

The Data-Driven Transformation of the Energy Efficiency Sector

Timothy Leong

The Internet of Things, characterized by technology platforms that enable interconnection of devices, has empowered companies to design innovative technologies, especially in the Energy Efficiency sector. Companies are embracing connectivity in product design, ranging from sensors to device communication to data analytics. As a result, we have seen increasing investments in software-based companies that are reshaping traditional energy efficiency products. Examples include Jasper, Nest, and Enlighted, which have garnered interest from many investment firms, news outlets, and social media. These companies are capable of transforming the Energy Efficiency sector through enabling cross communication technologies between devices.

Nest_logoNest, one of the leaders in the Smart Home subsector, has developed an interactive thermostat that learns and adapts to users’ behaviors. The Nest Thermostat interacts with its environment – it gathers readings on external climate, time of day, and movement in the house. Through sensor-driven analytics and behavioral data, Nest automatically adjusts the HVAC system, which allows for seamless automated energy savings. This autonomy is how data is redefining the energy efficiency landscape – providing cost savings through data analytics, all without any effort from the user.

enlighted_dataEnlighted, another innovator within the Smart Building subsector, has developed …


Digitizing the Shower Experience: An Interview with SmarTap CEO Asaf Shaltiel

Eric Vermeiren

Israeli company SmarTap has developed a smart shower system that stands to revolutionize personal and commercial water use by monitoring and controlling the temperature and flow of water in a household, hotel, or commercial building. We spoke with Asaf Shaltiel, CEO and founder of SmarTap, about the future of electronic smart shower systems.

What initially gave you the idea to pursue smart shower systems? (Did the idea come to you while you were in the shower?)

My initial idea for SmarTap came to me when I saw my sister with her two small twins at bath time. I saw how she struggled in the bathroom, adjusting the faucet for the right temperature and flow of water, and I thought to myself – we’re in the 21st century, how come we don’t have a system that allows us to fill the bath at exactly the right temperature, amount, and time that we want?

Do you see smart water systems like SmarTap’s as part of the broader trend of automating home devices?

What we’re trying to achieve at SmarTap is to lead a revolution in the rather archaic world of indoor water usage. Currently, faucet companies are surprisingly low-tech, employing roughly the …

Replenishing California’s Investments in Water Technology

Rosanna Ren

Here in Cleantech Group’s San Francisco office, we are acutely aware of California’s climate problem—that is, the worst drought on record in the state’s history. What’s alarming is that, despite the two drought emergency issuances by Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water use by 20%, statewide water consumption has in fact increased by at least 1%, up to 8% in some areas.

One might predict greater investments in Water and Wastewater to expedite solutions that address this current and real problem.  The 1Q2014 Water Innovation Monitor reported that water technology investments have stalled, but is it about to be back on the upswing?

water newsletter imagev2

According to Cleantech Group’s i3 platform, looking at California-based companies, eight equity deals have been closed in the water sector since January 17, the first drought emergency declaration. This sums up to a total of $88M invested, or 55% of the total global investments in water ($161M) since then.  Underground Solutions and Liquid Environmental Solutions top that list, receiving a combined $71.6M in growth equity.  This, at least, is optimistic and impressive news.

Examples of some companies doing innovative water technology work in California include WaterHealth, Observant, and WaterSmart Software. These start-ups are …

Isolated Car to Connected Car: Transportation from the 20th to the 21st Century

Christopher Renna

In the 1950s and 1960s, cars took hold of the United States. Car use and sales, as indicated by registration, boomed from 25.8 million cars in 1945 to 52.1 million cars in 1955 and finally 75.3 million cars in 1965. Indeed, Americans bought cars to drive towards the post-war American dream, roaming free of bounds, each person having his or her own car. Gas prices certainly didn’t hold anyone back…

But if the 20th century car brought freewheeling independence, the car of the 21st century is diametrically opposed: connected to the Internet (connected car and infotainment), to other cars (V2V) and to the environment (V2E); shared transportation, tethering individuals with mobile technology that allow for car sharing, ride sharing and the like.

Indeed, innovation is running wild in the transportation sector and investors are duly taking note. CTG’s i3 data shows the value and importance companies are according to transportation-related innovation.  Equity investments over the first half of 2014 total $2.8 billion across 72 deals, with the Uber deal accounting for $1.2 billion of that. This is almost triple the investment made in the second half of last year, or roughly equivalent to the total investment made …

An Update on the Energy Efficiency Sector

David Medoff

Last year, the global Energy Efficiency sector completed more deals than any of its peer industries, according to Cleantech Group’s i3 platform. The past quarter saw sustained momentum within the sector, so much so that Energy Efficiency led all other industries in total accrued investments, receiving over $520 million, or 18% of all Q1 cleantech fundraising. By all accounts, efficiency software and hardware providers are doing well.

That said, can we really call this news? For the past decade, Energy Efficiency has consistently been at the vanguard of cleantech fundraising, second only to Solar. Moreover, the former has been far more consistent in its fundraising ability than Solar, an industry known for its highs and lows.

So while healthy numbers may be old news for the sector, sub-sector capital allocation is always changing. Energy Efficiency covers a wide swathe of subsectors, from Smart Glass to Efficient HVAC to Cleanweb and so on.  Thus, the most recent data enjoin us to ask where, specifically, are the most recent windfalls landing?

View designs and manufactures intelligent glasses that electronically tint in response to sunlight, and in doing so, mitigates reliance on HVAC systems; the company claims energy reductions in …

The Rise of Distributed Energy Storage Systems

Thomas Roccanova

In the age of up and coming distributed energy resources, one must put energy storage in the conversation.  While Solar PV may be the current breadwinner in many people’s minds, recent developments show the future for energy storage is bright. In October 2013, the California Public Utilities Commission approved a new mandate that requires Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric to add 1.3 gigawatts of energy storage by 2020. Paired with the recently re-established SGIP incentive, energy storage is poised to become a driving force in California in the coming years.

While it is early to attribute too many specific energy storage projects directly to the newly initiated mandate, energy storage companies such as Stem and Green Charge Networks are among the emerging start-ups that are focusing on reducing demand charges through a customer-side, behind-the-meter approach of distributed energy storage. Stem, Green Charge Networks, and Coda Energy have received notable recent funding within the past year, which has helped them develop zero-money down energy storage finance programs in order to incentivize adoption among industrial and commercial customers.

Keeping in tune with the general movement toward automation, Stem and Green Charge Networks

Discussing the ABB + Solar Impulse Partnership with ABB SVP Maxine Ghavi

M Paschich

ABB_Maxine _GhaviEarlier this quarter, ABB announced their technology alliance partnership with Solar Impulse. We spoke with Maxine Ghavi—SVP & Head of the Solar Industry Segment Initiative at ABB—about the nature of this corporate partnership and what she sees lying ahead for the team.   

Hello Maxine… Can you tell us the genesis story for the ABB + Solar Impulse partnership?

If you look at ABB and Solar Impulse we share a common ideal, and that is to address the growing energy demand with increased efficiency and minimal environmental impact. Both organizations value innovation, value pushing the envelope on the limits of technology. We also share the cultural characteristics of being Swiss-based companies. We both have novel approaches to solving problems in a responsible way, and endeavor to make significant contributions to the areas of renewable energy and storage. All of these together – our shared visions for technology, innovation and sustainable energy – they set a solid foundation for collaboration and to take these common areas of expertise to the next level.

ABB_Blog_Image1Yes, that’s quite interesting. How do you fit into this story? Can you share a bit on your background, and what you’re doing at ABB? Also, what do you like

Red Hot: Agriculture & Food Investment Sets Record Pace in 2014

Gannon McHenry

Precision Agriculture has burst onto the scene as one of the most discussed sectors of 2014. This is due in no small part to the recent commercialization of multiple disruptive technologies. Technologies such as drones, formerly limited to military use, are now being deployed on farms to help greatly increase production. Large corporations and venture investors have begun to notice the immense opportunities involved with mitigating the effects of a changing climate and an ever-growing need for better yields.AgInvestment

Total 2014 Q1 venture investment in companies covered by our Agriculture and Food sector was $230M, over double the amount from 2013 Q1. In a sign of the sector’s increasing momentum, the dollar amount of deals made in 2014 has already eclipsed the total for 2013; so far coming in at $331M. Current deal levels are also set to exceed the record number of investments which occurred last year.

The largest individual rounds of the year have so far occurred in the area of genomics. Arcadia Biosciences, a company focused on the production of genetically engineered hardy crops, closed a $33M funding round in early May. Chromatin, a developer of sorghum seed technologies, received $36M in January from a …

How Behavioral Water Efficiency Can Change Our Relationship with H2O: an Interview w/ WaterSmart CEO Peter Yolles

M Paschich

PYcWaterSmart Software recently raised nearly $5 million in Series A round of funding: we chat with Peter Yolles, Co-Founder and CEO, about the company, its growing team, the value of data-driven water management, and the future of the water system.    

Hi Peter… Can you walk us back to the beginning of WaterSmart Software?

Yes, I’d be glad to tell that story. I’ve been in the water sector for over 20 years, and so when I moved to my first home in 2001 it was very important to me that the home use water efficiently. So, I installed hardware like efficient toilets and other appliances, and at the same time I was very interested in knowing what impact these investments would have and how much money I was saving on my water use. Tracking these savings meant gathering data, which—I thought—meant going online to my local water utility’s website. Surprisingly, I found a page called “Water Consumption History”. Frustratingly, the page said “Under Construction / Check Back Soon”. And so I waited and waited and waited and, after 8 years, nothing changed. Looking back, it makes some sense because, when you think about it, water utilities just don’t have a core …

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 sector in …