cleantech insights

What matters in cleantech corporate relationships

Josh Gould

One of our major research focuses here at Cleantech Group is corporate-to-corporate relationships.  We track them in i3 for our research subscribers.  We also capture them in our market map (see the picture above).  We spend so much time on relationships because we believe they have an outsized influence on cleantech relative to other industries. 

Why?  That is worthy of a post in itself but a few quick reasons include market share (in lighting, for instance, just 3 players have a combined 50% share of the market), importance of customer and channel access (e.g., governmental and utility clients whom are difficult for startups to reach),  influence with regulators, and the mutually dependent relationship between  large, slower-growing company balance sheets and the often superior ability of smaller companies to innovate.

So let’s say you agree with our thesis that corporate relationships matter in cleantech.  But what really matters in these relationships?  That is also a topic worthy of a much longer post but here’s a few initial thoughts:

  1. Number: The number of relationships a company is a (albeit imperfect) proxy for the influence a company wields.  A few examples of relationship numbers representing influence include GE and Schneider Electric
  2. Type: We here at Cleantech Group track whether a relationship is an investment,

All of the Lights: Not LEDs, says Lumiette

Josh Gould

Even those with only cursory exposure to the lighting industry have heard about LEDs (light-emitting diodes).  Extremely energy efficient and manufactured in a process analogous to semi-conductors, LEDs have spawned a tremendous amount of corporate activity – from heavyweights like Philips making major LED pushes, to high profile startups like Bridgelux and Lemnis Lighting (all of which we cover in our lighting industry analysis here).

But despite all the LED hype – which is particularly strong here in an innovation hub like Silicon Valley – has anyone stopped to recognize that over 80% of the installed base of lights are still “old school” fluorescents and incandescents?  And have all those LED enthusiasts encountered some of the (admittedly debatable) complaints about LED light color and quality?  Further, does anyone realize that the biggest ESCOs like Johnson Controls are still almost entirely swapping old fluorescent fixtures for newer ones, instead of installing LEDs or fancy lighting controls systems?

Lumiette is a Silicon Valley based flourescent lighting startup playing to these contrarian facts.  Founded in 2007 by lighting and semiconductor industry veterans, the company has IP around an ultra-efficient, flat panel lamp with cathodes on the exterior; moving the electrode

Lighting continues its hot streak

Josh Gould

In a recent blog after our San Francisco forum, I discussed how cleantech needs to move forward with more action (verbs) and less idle chatter.

With that in mind, I’ll keep this post short and point out what is becoming increasingly obvious: lighting is hot.  Just a few quick anecdotes to support this point:

  • It’s a huge, international market (easily in the $000′s of billions – see our recent lighting report for more about our estimates of market size)
  • It has VCs interested.  In 2010, lighting companies raised $350M in venture funding, up from $230M in 2009 (yes, you read that correctly, it was a $120M or 52% annual increase)
  • The hot streak continues in 2011 with companies like Digital Lumens recently raising another fundraising round (note: we rececntly profiled the company as part of our subscriber-only research)

Since last year we here at Cleantech Group have been saying that lighting is a big, big deal in cleantech.  But it’s nice to see that the rest of the world is taking notice.  Stay tuned to our research and blog as we continue to cover this important cleantech sector.…

The IT Cleantech Debate Comes to Energy Efficiency

Josh Gould

Perhaps it’s because we’re located in Cleantech Group’s San Francisco office, but time and time again we hear comparisons between cleantech and IT.  Sometimes the comparisons make cleantech look good.  When drawing analogies between cleantech and IT we often hear about the size of the market opportunity, the many smart people dedicating their time and careers to the industry, and the investment dollars from nearby Sand Hill Road (and all across the world, for that matter) which are pouring into cleantech.

Yet we also hear people point out the many ways in which cleantech is different than IT.  These comparisons typically cast the industry in a more negative light.  We hear about how cleantech startups are less capital efficient than their IT counterparts, how sales cycles can be long and challenging, how the industry is regulated and reliant on policy decisions which may or may not be forthcoming.  Clearly there is some truth to these criticisms – though many of them tell parts, but not the whole, of the story.

Whatever one thinks of this never ending debate, there is one area where we can confidently draw a cleantech/ IT comparison: energy efficiency.  Let me count the ways.  First, in our most …

Another win for lighting controls as Redwood closes $15M round

Emma Ritch

Fremont, Calif.-based startup Redwood Systems revealed today it closed a $15 million Series B round for its LED lighting control system, coming on the heels of a $12.7 million Series B for Lumenergi, a lighting controls startup based in nearby Newark, California.

The two companies are illustrative of a fast-growing sub-sector within lighting that’s gaining investor support and market adoption. Lighting controls companies secured 16% of VC investment within lighting from 2005 to 2010, but that’s jumped to 21% in 2009 and 2010 to-date.

Source: Cleantech Group analysis

Why all the interest? Lighting is considered the low-hanging fruit for energy efficiency retrofits, as illumination accounts for  44% of electricity in U.S. office buildings and a quarter of the energy in residential buildings–roughly the same energy consumed by cooling. Lighting controls–including software, sensors, drivers, fixtures, and intelligent ballasts–can maximize energy efficiency of multiple lighting sources, with some vendors claiming up to 75% reduction in energy use due to controls technology.

Redwood offers a unique lighting control system that combines power and control of LEDs over the same low-voltage data cable for office buildings and data centers. While adoption of LEDs is projected to increase to about 80% of the …

Big promises, but can lighting control systems deliver?

Emma Ritch

Lighting control systems are a hot sector within cleantech. The technology holds the promise of up to 75% reduction in energy use with little, if any, change in occupant behavior. Lighting accounts for about 20% of electricity use in the U.S., for example, so adoption of LCS can have a significant impact on worldwide energy consumption and emissions.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy Buildings Energy Data Book, Sept. 2008

There is significant buzz around the four startups that have come out of stealth in the past year—Adura Technologies, Redwood Systems, Daintree Networks and Cavet Technologies—as well as startups with slightly longer track records, Encelium Technologies and Starfield Controls. There are numerous other startups we’re tracking with complementary and tangential technology solutions, including Lumenergi, Digital Lumens, Juice Technology, Octus Energy and Echoflex.

ESCOs and major lighting corporations are amongst those in trials with LCS startups, and many LCS solutions are near commercial deployment thanks to the overlap in expertise with the IT sector.

Yet for all this attention, the LCS sector is still very early. Estimates are that fewer than 1% of buildings have advanced LCS installed. And there has been little …