Friday, January 18, 2008

Cleantech investment looking strong - will it hold?

Interesting juxtaposition between the current stock market turmoil and recession concerns and the continued growth in renewable investment. Of course, most of these renewable numbers are backward looking (compared to the general forward-looking macroeconomic concerns), and even in recessions, one would expect to still some pockets of growth.

Ignoring the multiple challenges facing the U.S. economy (increasing unemployment, slowing business investment, decreasing consumer spending, credit contraction and contagion), there was a lot of positive domestic news the last couple days in the renewable sector, from many different angles.

Green-tech investment topped $5 billion in 2007: The Cleantech Group’s numbers are different than New Energy Finance, and Greentech Media (as each group measures different sources of financing), but the percentage growth trends for all are highly positive.

2007 venture investment in the alternative energy market in North America and Europe was $5.18 billion, compared with $3.6 billion the previous year [growth of 44% year-over-year]. The 2006 rise was also 44 percent.

The number of financing deals in the industry increased 15 percent last year to 268, and the average deal size rose 20 percent to $14.7 million.
Actual press release with more detail here, while another good overview is here.

Wind, Solar Power Gain Users: (subs. required) Meanwhile, strong numbers from both the wind and solar industries as well.
The U.S. wind-power industry grew in size by 45% last year, adding a record 5,244 megawatts of capacity that amounted to a third of all new generating capacity built in the U.S. in 2007, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

The solar industry grew at a similar clip, though from a much smaller base, adding more than 300 megawatts of capacity last year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Additions are expected to roughly double this year. Large commercial solar installations now exceed home installations in California, reversing a long-term pattern and likely a bellwether for other states.
Much more detail on the wind numbers here.

Hot Carbon Market Signals New Interest: Even the carbon market got into the act, showing excellent year-over-year growth.
Trading of carbon-emission permits almost doubled in value last year to €40.3 billion ($59.1 billion), according to a new report...The market saw permits representing 2.7 billion metric tons traded last year, according to Point Carbon, a market-research firm based in Oslo. In 2006, permits representing 1.63 billion tons changed hands for a total value of €22.45 billion, the firm said.
Weekly cleantech deal tracking - eSolar gets Googled: In addition to Google’s investment in eSolar, there were a number of transportation related VC investments this week in a wide range of areas (14 total in this specific post).


Certainly, this was a great start to the new year for the renewable sector. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the industry responds to a slowing economy and any future stimulus efforts (fiscal and monetary). While the extension of production tax credits past 2008 will perhaps be the most important driver of near-term investment, the overall health of the U.S. (and global) economy could still play a role.

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