the (new) american worker

Winning the Energy (And Capital) Efficiency Game
April 1, 2010, 11:53 am
Filed under: Cleantech | Tags: , , , , ,

Caught the Q1 call for Cleantech Group yesterday, a Bay Area research group that has been tracking the clean tech sector since 1999. There was some good news last quarter, for sure, albeit the emergence of what may be the “new normal” for cleantech venture funding as the global economy still struggles to right itself.

Better Place CEO Moshe Kaplinksy is working fast towards a new world for transportation - and has $350 million in Series B venture funding to show for it.

First, the good news:  Q1 marked a record quarter in cleantech, not only in the recording of 181 deals – a landmark – but also in sketching that “sharp up and to the right” quarterly growth that we all love to see.

“The death of clean tech venture capital – I think we can firmly say that is not happening, said Sheeraz Haji, President of Cleantech Group. “Clean tech venture is back, it’s back strong.”

Next, the less good news, well for solar and all those capital-intensive projects anyways – though Q1 marked a record high in venture deals for the sector, it did not mark a record high in capital raised. Valuations are still down, Haji noted, and the funds that are being dished out are going towards “follow-on financing,” or those companies past the Series B round. Two losers are emerging: those in need of early stage capital, i.e., holding the burden of proof, and those whose capital needs exceed the amount a fund is willing to put in. While federal incentives remain for investment in wind and solar technologies, venture funds seem to be  hyper-conscious of the regulatory and capital challenges – such as land use issues – that exist in solar/wind plays.

So who is getting all those deals? Ironically, those who aim to save power – and cash. Energy-efficiency projects, including smart grids, LED lighting, and battery technology are the hot spot for development right now, says Cleantech. The $217 million that flowed into efficiencies last quarter was also likely because of continued federal incentives for utilities and corporations alike to improve their energy profile.

Finally, transportation was “off the charts” in dollar value for Q1 – a $704 million quarterly dominance that was driven by a couple of big deals. A $350 million Series B round for Better Place, followed by $140 million for Fisker Automotive – developer of plug-in hybrid cars – shows that those cap limits mentioned earlier will be tossed aside for a good auto play. Personally, I think Fisker is really exciting – let’s make a good American car!