The problem with clean tech is that it’s just not boring enough.
But boring is coming, promised Daniel Doctoroff, CEO of Bloomberg, as he kicked off the fifth annual Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit in New York City.
The conference does not focus on any particular energy source, but the deep pockets of financiers brings together some of the most innovative entrepreneurs across the clean tech sectors. The theme of this year’s conference is moving to a post-subsidy world, whether for fossil fuels or renewables.
“We’re working for the day when clean energy is just energy, when smart grid is just the grid, when high-intensity light bulbs are just bulbs, when LEED-certified buildings are just buildings,” said Doctoroff.
At the close of the first day of the conference, Bloomberg announced 10 companies that have the potential to change the energy landscape forever. From storage to home energy management to electric vehicle charging, the companies were chosen based on being game-changers and having momentum building solidly behind them from 2011 into 2012.
Here are the winners:
Tendril. Tendril, which once upon a time (last year) was seen as mostly just a home energy management company, has expanded to be a full-fledged energy platform for utilities and smart products to be delivered to consumers, who can then use the products to manage all of their energy-intensive devices. “It’s a platform for open, secure scalable consumer engagement,” said Kent Dickson, CTO for Tendril. The Boulder-based company likes to call it the energy internet. The product ecosystem includes OEMs such as Whirlpool, and it is also in a pilot with BMW for electric-vehicle charging.
Clean Power Finance. The falling price of solar is only one reason that more and more solar is being installed. Backed by a group of who’s who in greentech venture capital, including Kleiner Perkins and Google, CPF offers a software tool that allows solar installers to make financing available to system buyers. So far, the results have been impressive.
“We started selling financing for solar systems in April 2011,” CEO Nat Kreamer recently told Greentech Media, "and by August 2011, we were financing more than a million dollars a day of residential power purchase agreements and leases.”
And if you think it’s just Google and a few utilities that are interested, think again. Direct sales company Guthy-Renker, which sells Proactiv acne cream and the Malibu Pilates system, is also a client of Clean Power Finance.
ECOtality. The electric vehicle market is still extremely young, but that didn’t stop ECOtality from making the list of Pioneers in 2012. The EV charging company recently landed $5 million from its biggest benefactor, ABB, which had invested $14 million in an earlier round of funding. The most recent round also comes with a licensing agreement to use ECOtality’s Blink operating platform to connect ABB’s line of car charging equipment. The partnership could mean that ECOtality’s Blink software goes far beyond its own chargers and could be embedded in any other ABB chargers that are deployed globally.
Emefcy. It’s no surprise to find a wastewater treatment company in the lineup of 2012 Pioneers. Emefcy (pronounced M-F-C) works in the municipal and industrial wastewater markets, providing an aerobic bioreactor that can cut the energy required for aeration to nearly zero. It also has another bioreactor, essentially a microbial fuel cell that treats industrial wastewater while producing renewable electricity. “The water market is a great and huge market that maybe not all of you are aware of,” CEO and co-founder Eytan Levy told the crowd at the BNEF Summit.
LanzaTech. You heard it here first, Bloomberg. Greentech Media named LanzaTech one of the startups to watch in 2012. The company converts waste gas to fuel and chemicals using a proprietary microbe that essentially “gobbles up carbon monoxide and emits ethanol” without using water or land resources, according to Prabhakar Nair, VP of business development in Asia for LanzaTech. “It’s a novel way to capture carbon and produce biofuel.” The company recently raised $55.8 million in a Round C of financing, which will be used to scale up. LanzaTech currently has a pilot mill in New Zealand, where the company is headquartered, and is opening a pre-commercial scale plant for Baosteel this year.
Maxwell Technologies. Maxwell Technologies works with ultracapacitors that store energy in an electric field rather than a chemical reaction, as batteries do. The difference means a super-fast charge and discharge, and more than a million lifecycles. The San Diego-based company works in regenerative braking, wind power, high-voltage capacitors, transportation and backup power. Maxwell plans on doubling its electrode production capacity by the end of this year and is working with Bombardier to incorporate its ultracapacitors into regenerative braking systems.
Silver Spring Networks. The IPO hopeful was not in the room to present about the company at the BNEF Summit because of its quiet period. But that doesn’t mean Silver Spring Networks is not making any noise. The company recently announced it will deploy its smart grid networking platform to nearly four million homes and businesses in ComEd's territory. The champion of mesh has also recently embedded cellular communications in its network. Silver Spring also picked up $24 million in December of last year, which brings its total to just under $300 million in financing overall. The expected IPO will raise up to $150 million.
Xtreme Power. One more storage company also makes the list -- this time, one that plays primarily in the grid and renewable space. The company is expecting to see 100 percent growth for the fourth consecutive year, in some measure because Xtreme’s clients can use storage for up to seven services, including grid balancing and to smooth resources. Duke Energy has selected Xtreme to build a 36-megawatt dynamic power resource at its 153-megawatt wind farm in Notrees, Texas. The battery pack should go live by the end of this year.
Smarter Grid Solutions. Another grid company on the list of Pioneers is Smarter Grid Solutions, which helps utilities maximize the use of existing grid infrastructure using software. The company’s applications can help with voltage regulation, thermal modeling, bring on renewables on constrained grids and other grid services. Alan Gooding, managing director of Smarter Grid Solutions, said his company allows utilities to access two to three times more power than they can otherwise get onto the grid. “We sit at the intersection of OT and IT,” he explained. The company currently has 12 megawatts connected, with another 17 megawatts contracted.
Va-Q-tec. On the subject of boring, Chris Hoffman, principal with va-Q-tec, said that the company has bet that something as mundane as insulation can be a game-changer. The German-based company uses highly efficient vacuum insulation panels. Va-Q-tec is already working with some of the world’s largest white-goods manufacturers to put the technology into refrigerators. The company also works in packaging and transportation, building insulation and mobility. “We’re moving from the simple products into full solutions,” said Hoffman.