Global cleantech investment dropped to $1.6 billion in the second quarter of 2012, down 14 percent from $1.9 billion in the first quarter and 25 percent down from the $2.1 billion invested in the second quarter of 2011.
That’s the bad news from the Cleantech Group’s report Tuesday, which tracks a downturn in green technology venture investment amidst global economic turmoil and heightening political opposition to government subsidies for solar, wind, EVs and other green industries.
Still, Cleantech CEO Sheeraz Haji noted some bright spots, including water, agriculture and resource management, that seem poised for success. “Maybe you don't want to call it cleantech, but this world of resource efficiency is hot, and it’s going to be huge,” he said in a Tuesday conference call.
In the meantime, “It’s safe to say the U.S. IPO market is effectively shut,” Haji said. All nine of the greentech IPOs in the second quarter came from China, while North American startups BrightSource, Enerkem and Luca Technologies all dropped their IPO plans.
Little wonder, given the poor performance of companies like A123, Amyris, and some other greentech companies that have gone public in the past few years. (Tesla is an outlier in this case, Haji noted.) Little on the horizon seems set to change that perception, though Haji noted that SolarCity’s expected IPO may provide a much-needed boost.
As for other greentech IPO hopefuls in 2012, “I think that the world of SolarCity, Sunrun, Clean Power Finance, is in a great place," he said, listing a set of well-funded solar financing and installation startups finding value in selling solar power's increasingly cost-effective solution to customers. "I do think they will get out," he said.
In contrast, Haji painted a grim picture for upstream solar manufacturers as they fight against China in a rapidly commoditizing business.
On the VC front, the top rounds of the quarter includes Sapphire Energy with $144 million from investors including Venrock and Monsanto; Fisker’s $129 million from New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers; NanoH2O with $60 million from Khosla Ventures and BASF; Harvest Power’s $112 million from Kleiner and Generation Investment Management and True North Venture Partners; Soladigm’s $55 million from Khosla and DBL, Nanosolar’s $70 million from Mohr Davidow, OnPoint Technologies and Ohana Holdings; Climate Corp. with $50 million from Khosla Ventures and Google Ventures; and Coulomb Technologies with $48 million from Kleiner and Siemens.
There’s a lot of corporate investment in these figures, Haji noted. Coulomb and Siemens are working closely together on EV charging from cables to cloud services, for example. Even so, corporate M&A saw a slight decline in Cleantech’s second quarter figures, at $13.5 billion for 12 disclosed deals, down from $15.2 billion in the first quarter and about level with $13.4 billion in same quarter last year.
Big acquisitions include Eaton’s $11.8 billion acquisition of Cooper; Ember’s $72 million acquisition by Silicon Labs; Saint-Gobain’s acquisition of Sage Electrochromics for an undisclosed sum (plus $80 million in previous strategic investment); Schneider Electric’s undisclosed purchase of M&C Energy Group; and ABB buying up Tropos Networks for an undisclosed sum.