The Future of Green Tech Investment

green technology investmentAccording to a recent article in Green Technica by author Joshua S. Hill, green tech investment could “skyrocket” by 2030. Hill cites research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, including a detailed analysis of three different potential scenarios. As their research shows, wind and solar could have the efficiency and popularity needed to bring the renewable energy industry into its own.

Although clean energy ETFs have been underperforming in an era where fossil fuels have largely recovered from recession-era prices, each of the three scenarios explored by Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows an increase in green technology investing. A 230% increase in annual investment by 2030 would mean increasing to a total of $630 billion per year. Bloomberg New Energy Finance largely attributes this to the decreasing cost of wind and solar technologies, as compared to fossil fuel alternatives. The report also shows increased use of hydro power, geothermal and biomass.

Michael Liebreich, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s chief executive, believes that we have already passed the “tipping point” for clean energy technology. He points out that, even though most news coverage is discussing the future of fossil fuels, costs for green energy and implementation are falling. He says, “The news right now is dominated by stories of pain caused by overcapacity on the supply side of clean energy, and the lure of cheap shale gas, but this is playing out against the falling costs of renewable energy and of all the technologies required to integrate it into our energy system, and falling costs win. What it suggests is that we are beyond the tipping point towards a cleaner energy future.”

The three scenarios explored by Bloomberg New Energy Finance are “New Normal”, “Barrier Busting” and “Traditional Territory”. “New Normal” is cited as the most likely, and ends with a probable $630 billion per year in green tech investing. Each scenario calls for growth in the renewable energy sector, notably in solar and wind energy, along with decreases in fossil fuels. Even the modest “Traditional Territory” scenario shows green tech investment increasing to $470 billion by 2030.

Guy Turner, the head of economics and commodities for Bloomberg New Energy Finance, says that renewable technologies will be the “anchor of new generating capacity additions” in all scenarios. He points out, “The main driver for future growth of the renewable sector over this timeframe is a shift from policy support to falling costs and natural demand.” Read the original article.

When we last looked at solar energy in particular, we noted that 2013 is a slower year for installations due to an oversupply of solar panels. However, by bringing this technology to end-users more quickly and at lowered prices, we explored the idea that solar energy may be closer to being at parity with fossil fuel based energy. Also helping the situation is a budgeted increase in spending for the Department of Energy, including a 75 percent increase in spending on advanced vehicles to $575 million, and a 29 percent increase in spending on the ongoing effort to integrate solar and wind power into the national electric grid.

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CleanEquityMonaco: A Must-Do for the Greentech Aficionado or Investor March 4-5

One of the high points of the greentech year is coming up March 4-5: CleanEquityMonaco (http://www.cleanequitymonaco.com) in the picturebook-lovely city of Monte Carlo.  Interestingly enough it is not a costly conference to attend, probably because it has very distinguished sponsors, and probably worthwhile even for Americans to fly to.  The conference has arranged very attractive hotel rates, a fraction of what one would expect on the Riviera, and quite reasonable flights can be found from the Northeast to Nice (which is the airport for Monaco as well).

Monaco Harbor from the Old City

CEM is a meetingplace for people with new and significant green technologies of all types, and from all over the globe.  There are several plenary meetings set, and some very distinguished guest speakers as well.  Awards for the best technologies and best commercializations will be made by Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou and HSH Prince Albert II.  The conference coincides with an annual meeting of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) and green technocrats from all over the world will be in town at the same time.

But the real show are the new technologies themselves.  The publisher of this blog, Allen & Caron (http://www.allencaron.com) is working with the conference organizers on a pro bono basis, and we have admired the arrangements as they have been made over the last 6-8 months. 

Loopwing Wind Turbine from Japan -- meet them at CEM March 4-5

For obvious reasons, the largest category of new technologies will be in the field of alternative energy: solar, wind, new fuels, etc.  But there will also be environmental technologies that run the gamut.  The sponsor and organizer is London-based Innovator Capital (http://www.innovator-capital.com), a boutique investment bank and financial advisor with a devotion to environmental causes, and there will be investment bankers prowling around looking for clients, as well as technocrats from big multinationals looking for acquisitions and partnerships.  Many of the companies that are showing new technologies are not listed or publicly traded, and quite a few are really post-academic, though all have demonstrated proof of what they claim to be able to accomplish.  All are scrappy, feisty, fearless and have new mind-bending ideas.

Some “hot” publicly listed companies will also be presenting, including Shanghai-based China Energy Recovery, Oak Park MI-based Azure Dynamics, Torrance CA-based Enova Systems, Oxford UK-based Oxford Catalysts, Southboro MA-based Protonex, Cuxhaven Germany-based PNE Wind, Perth Australia-based Enerji Ltd,  and Griesheim Germany-based BGI EcoTech.

Jigar Shah, CEO of The Carbon War Room

The keynote speaker will be Jigar Shah, CEO of The Carbon War Room(http://www.carbonwarroom.com) , a noted authority on renewable energy, and the founder of SunEdison, which has more megawatts of solar energy under management than any other company in the world.  Mr Shah is an alumnus of BP Solar, a DOE contractor on fuel cells and alternative energy, and a member of several boards, including Greenpeace USA and the Prometheus Institute. 

Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou

Sir Stelios will introduce the Next Wave segment of new technologies on the second day of the conference.  He is best known for having founded EasyJet, a leading lowcost airline that has revolutionized European travel, but he is also the founder of several other companies.  His Stelios Philanthropic Foundation is devoted to environmental sustainability, education and entrepreneurship. 

We highly recommend that you consider attending.  The cost is reasonable and the technology rewards potentially earth-changing.  Some of these concepts will completely reorder the way you see the world.

50 Emerging CleanTechs Each Year: An Interview with Mungo Park of CleanEquityMonaco

We had a conversation with  our old friend, Mungo Park, on Friday the 23rd, primarily to talk about the annual CleanEquityMonaco conference (http://www.cleanequitymonaco.com/) hosted by his company, London-based boutique investment bank, Innovator Capital (http://www.innovator-capital.com/).  The 2010 edition of CleanEquityMonaco* is set forMarch 4-5, 2010, and it will follow the established mandate of finding 50 of the most innovative and potentially world-changing emerging technologies in the cleantech/greentech world. 

 

Innovator Capital's Mungo Park, organizer of CleanEquityMonaco

Innovator Capital's Mungo Park, organizer of CleanEquityMonaco

Mungo Park (a descendent of the 18th-century Scots explorer of the same name) has spent most of his professional life working with emerging technology companies, largely in the role of  investment banker.  The Irish Mr Park started at Prudential Bache, and then came up through the ranks at northeastern US investment banks of legend, many swallowed up by larger institutions in the consolidation frenzy of the latter years of the 20th century: Alex Brown & Sons, Cowen & Company, Dillon Read & Co.  He headed Nomura’s European i-banking operation before founding Innovator Capital.  Innovator was at first devoted to life science banking, and broadened over the last 5-6 years to include cleantech banking, due to its obvious connection with preventive healthcare and societal wellness. 

The following are excerpts from the conversation:

SCW: You were originally attracted to life sciences.  Why are you now seeking out alternative energy and greentech companies?

MP: I was working on a financing for a company that had a technology to remove oxides of nitrogen from diesel emissions and I realized that not only was this a way to make people healthier (less asthma, fewer respiratory ailments), but the business plans of cleantech companies follow a similar pattern to what I had seen in biotech and healthcare in general.  That is, invention, research, development into a usable product, commercialization.  A biotech product has to survive 7-9 years of test, however, and in many cases a greentech product can be ready for market in 7-9 months, which means the potential for a return on investment is much closer, if the wheel lands on your number.  Most green technologies do not have to clear through an FDA-type regulator in order to be “legal,” which makes all the difference in the world, often reducing the length of time from conception to commercialization.

The most important reason I am working on cleantech is, however, that it ticks the “ethical box” — that is, it improves the quality of human life.  And that is also the reason for CleanEquityMonaco.

SCW: Other than the name, what’s different about CleanEquityMonaco?  There are greentech/cleantech scientific or financial conferences springing up everywhere.  And how does a company get invited to participate?

MP:  About the time I was becoming more and more interested in cleantech, His Serene Highness Prince Albert II became the sovereign of Monaco.  I have had the good fortune to know him and he has significant credentials in environmental issues.  Shortly after his accession I had a meeting with him and we came up with the idea for CleanEquityMonaco, a conference whose purpose is to introduce emerging/early-stage, innovative, next-generation technologies from all over the world.  The fields of interest are, broadly, clean energy, clean earth, clean water, clean air.

Many of the presenting companies are fresh out of academia or an inventor’s laboratory.  Many are working on their first proof of principle and are very early stage.  They need money, yes, but they need other things as well.  CleanEquityMonaco is set up as a platform to introduce them to sources of investment (financial and strategic), but also to media, politicians and political influencers, potential licensees and potential technology partners. 

As to how a company can be invited, there are numerous ways.  We have developed a list of about 300 companies that we are looking at ourselves.  Many of those, as it turns out, are not qualified because they are too large or too well-established.  We try to invite presenters who are below €250 million in fair value — and that is an important distinction between our search for emerging technologies and other conferences’ searches for faits accomplis.  But we accept nominations from people we trust, and apply our diligence principles to those.  We try for a geographic spread that is global, so we don’t want more than, say 10 companies from North America, preferring to be clearly and fairly global.  And we give some preference to companies that are not yet listed for trading in a public market — and that may not have that as a goal either.  We are interested in the entrepreneurial spirit as it affects the cleantech/greentech movement, and, potentially, the health of people around the world.

Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo

Hotel de Paris, Monte Carlo

SCW: Why would a company want to present?

MP: If we put it together right — and so far the conferences have gone pretty well — in the 2 days of CleanEquityMonaco, the companies can cover a huge amount of ground.  They can save a lot of time and money because there is such a good mix of people there.  We have heard back from the participants that it is an extremely productive meeting.

We have two levels of participation for companies in different stages of development: full participation for companies who are post-development/expansion stage, and a “Next Wave” participation for companies who are pre-revenue/early-stage.  The Next Wave companies make a shorter presentation, but they have all the opportunities for networking which, in the final analysis, is what the conference is about.

SCW: We hear that Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou will be presenting a new award at the conference. 

MP: Of course Stelios is very well known in Europe as a hugely successful entrepreneur, perhaps most famous from EasyJet and EasyGroup, but from many businesses that he has started or encouraged from scratch.  And as a successful entrepreneur, he wants to give something back to the world.  He has been looking at cleantech for a while, and attended CleanEquityMonaco 2009.  He is sponsoring the conference, and has indeed agreed to present an award for entrepreneurship in cleantech, but he is particularly looking forward to meeting people, sharing his experience.  The Stelios Foundation (http://www.stelios.com/ ) has as its areas of interest: the environment, education and entrepreneurship.

SCW: What makes this conference different from other conferences?

MP: The extraordinary thing about this conference is the rich texture of participation.  We invite 50 companies to present, and about 300 attendees to mix, mingle and offer their help.  The focus is strictly on emerging technologies — not on upcoming financial deals.  The view is global, not country specific, and the attendees tend to be quite senior in their positions, representing international organizations like the UN, sovereign governments, big international corporations, academia, and finance.  We expect to see big multinationals there, shopping for investments and looking for junior partnerships — companies like Philips, GE, Siemens, Nissan and IBM.

Perhaps most important, the attendees go to Monte Carlo specifically for the conference, and they tend to be in attendance for all the sessions both days.  If we tried to do the same thing in London, we would have people popping in and out, coming to the lunch, and some presenters would get short shrift.  That is simply not the case in Monte Carlo.  It is a two-day event for everyone concerned, and the attendees tend to be at the conference 12 hours a day.

SCW: The upcoming conference will be the 3rd annual.  Have you had particular success stories that came out of the first two editions of CleanTechMonaco?

 MP: Several come to mind right away.  Zenergy Power (http://www.zenergypower.com/ ) presented in 2008; they are a superconductor energy technology company, listed on AIM, but operating in Germany, the US and Australia.  They have a variety of products targeted at electric utilities, and have done very well with the technology for transmitting large quantities of electricity over long distances with little or not leakage.  They got a large amount of recognition at CleanEquityMonaco, which also resulted in a lot of publicity.  Subsequently they have received additional funding and are, I believe, the first superconductor developer to be partnered by a major US utility.

Ener1 (http://www.ener1.com/ ) presented at that same meeting.  At the time they presented, they were pretty early-stage, and had recently restructured their capitalization.  They spent a good deal of their time at the conference with Think Electric, an auto company from Norway that was also presenting — and the two have subsequently partnered in several ways.  Ener1 has been a success story on the stock market, and was the recipient of a large US stimulus matching grant to expand its manufacturing in Indiana. 

Heliocentris Fuel Cells AG (http://www.heliocentris.com/en/about-us/profile.html) , based in Berlin and traded in Germany, is a hydrogen fuelcell company that presented to the 2009 conference.  Very soon thereafter they were able to announce a new financing that has helped them expand their business considerably.  They are partnered with many of the leading fuel-cell companies around the world.

US Geothermal (http://www.usgeothermal.com/) is headquartered in Idaho and traded on the NYSE Amex.  It is what its name implies: a company that uses the earth’s own heat to generate power.  They have had a steep growth trajectory, and were recently awarded a grant by DOE for a project in Oregon. 

Scots company Aquamarine Power (http://www.aquamarinepower.com/ ) is installing the world’s first nearshore wave energy device that will generate clean energy from the movement of waves.  They presented at the 2009 conference and have won numerous awards and commendations from all over the world.  They were able to raise a fair amount of new capital during a very difficult market subsequent to their participation in CleanEquityMonaco, and we are pleased that the timing was so propitious for them.

SCW: It is all business then?

MP:  CleanEquityMonaco is held in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the camaraderie that comes out of the meeting may be as important in some cases as the sharing of scientific developments. The meeting is small enough and senior enough that it helps create a network that’s not dissimilar to some “old school” or university networks — reaching all over the world and to many parts of society and industry. 

We have special rates from the best hotels in Monte Carlo: the fabulous Hotel de Paris, the beautiful beaux arts Hermitage, and the modern seaside Monte Carlo Bay Hotel.  We will be announcing several social events, including a CEO-only dinner on the night before the first day of meetings.  However serious we are, it is still Monte Carlo, after all.

SCW:  Many thanks. 

*Allen & Caron, publisher of this blog, is working with CleanEquityMonaco on a collegial basis in North America.

Water Stocks Could Be Poised to End Drought

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites some eye-popping, though perhaps debatable, stats about the amount of water used to make common products. A cup of coffee takes roughly 35 gallons. A cotton T-shirt,700 gallons of water to produce. A hamburger? 630 gallons — more than three times the amount the average American uses every day for drinking, bathing, washing dishes and flushing toilets. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123483638138996305.html. The article also cites a UN report that two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025 and a GAO report that 36 states anticipate shortages by 2013.

Though there have always seemed to be dire predictions of water shortages, major industry players are now taking the threat seriously. Heavy water users have already begun to look into water offset projects (see our February 23 interview with Neil Eckert of Climate Exchange) and a new consortium had its first summit in Miami last month (http://www.water-footprint-usa.com/index.asp). The Pacific Institute suggests that corporations and investors should consider water accessibility as a key risk factor and notes that Coca Cola, which lost access to groundwater at its Indian bottling operations, now discloses water usage in its financial reports (http://www.pacinst.org/reports/business_water_climate/index.htm).

Most public companies in the water industry are utilities, but here are some smallcaps that have technologies and skill-sets that merit a closer look for anyone interested in this space.
Omaha-based Lindsay Corp. (NYSE:LNN, http://www.lindsaymanufacturing.com/) makes and sells automated irrigation systems to the agriculture industry and has a presence throughout the world. Its stock rode the commodity and ethanol bubble to $131 in May of 2008 and now trades at $23.70, a few dollars above its 52-week low. This might be a solid entry point for an established leader on the right side of a macroeconomic certainty – the need to feed more people more efficiently.

Vancouver, WA-based Northwest Pipe Company (Nasdaq:NWPX, http://www.nwpipe.com) manufactures and markets large-diameter, high-pressure steel pipeline systems for use in water infrastructure applications, primarily related to drinking water systems. Last month, the company pulled in record net income of $32.3 million for 2008, compared to $20.8 million in 2007. Yet, at $23.17, it trades at just over a third of its 52-week peak.  Should draw some attention, and the stock trades fairly well, at 170,000+ shares per day.

Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink?  Energy Recovery of San Leandro, CA (Nasdaq:ERII, http://www.energyrecovery.com/), Inc. manufactures and markets seawater desalination products. The stock was downgraded by Dougherty and Company last week, but the stock is less than a year old and represents a rare pure play in a market dominated by GE.  It is trading at $6.02, just less than half its high of $13.25, with a market cap of $302 million and trading volume of a hair under 200,000 shares a day. 

Tim Jones has been a noted speaker on the issue of water management for several years and his consulting firm, Innovaro, counts some of Europe’s largest companies as clients. The search for efficient and sustainable water usage can be expected to be a growing corporate concern. Innovaro is part of Tampa-based innovation consulting firm UTEK* (Amex:UTK, http://www.utekcorp.com/) whose tech transfer group could be tasked with the challenge of finding promising water technology licensing opportunities for corporate clients.

*client of Allen & Caron, publisher of this blog