fredag 29 juni 2007

Swedish cleantech investors are making moves at home...

.. slowly. And the steps aren't that big.

But things are happening. Recently, Sustainable Technology Partners Nordic invested 15 million SEK in Swebo from Boden, northern Sweden. Swebo is (was) a family owned company, providing plants and equipment for bioenergy generation, with an focus on efficient combustion solutions of non-refined feedstocks.

And the 15th of June, Capman announced that they, together with SEB Venture Capital and Aloe Private Group, will acquire 80% of the shares in KMW, a company delivering medium-to-large scale biomass CHP plants. The company is based in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm.

Both these companies have in common a long tradition, stable development, quality products of proven technologies on a growing international market. They are no brand new "stars", with a hyped technology and high expectations based un uncertain assumptions. The message is quite clear from Swedish cleantech investors, at least so far.
Let's do some predictions. Next targets may include Hotab-Gruppen. 30 years in the combustion market, with turnkey biomass plants for multiple feedstocks. They also have a clear export focus, especially directed towards the Eastern European market. It is family owned, and venture capital influx would facilitate further expansion. Other potential candidates may be Janfire and Petrokraft.

Companies with a shorter history, and expectations rather than a solid sales record, might find it harder to attract domestic investors. That may affect more or less hyped, innovation-based companies. A few examples: Ecoera, Chromogenics and Lignoboost
(Don't get me wrong, I am not judging their products, only their short term possibilities to access Swedish venture capital.)

Another possible future trend may be horizontal integration, takeovers and fusions between the cleantech companies themselves, which was the case when Nibe acquired Iwabo Naturenergi

onsdag 20 juni 2007

Risk för cleantechbubbla? Knappast. Däremot för enskilda företagsbubblor

Dagens Miljö skriver idag om risken för en cleantechbubbla. Visst, på kort sikt kan enskilda företag och delsektorer att sjunka i värdering, till föjld av uppskruvna förväntningar. Detta kan tillfälligt drabba hela sektorn. Men cleantechsektorn som helhet har större potential, särskilt om man sprider sina ägg.
Jag har redan skrivit om detta här, och om att nästa "boom" kommer inom energieffektivisering.

"Boomen" vi sett är i stort sett logisk och marknadsmässig.
Självklart kommer enskilda företag av olika skäl inte klara sig i konkurrensen, och vissa företag är säkerligen övervärderade redan idag.
T.o.m. hela delsektorer kan komma att krascha. Marknaden kommer till exempel så småningom att straffa t.ex. etanolsektorn p.g.a. lågt energiutbyte för vissa former av etanol (majs&spannmål), och externa kostnader för andra typer (jatropha). En eventuell rekyl inom en delsektor kommer att drabba hela sektorn, dock tillfälligt.
Cleantechsektorn som helhet kommer på lång sikt snarare bara öka, eftersom fler blir varse om de externa kostnaderna i ett icke-hållbart samhälle. Förnyelsebar energi behövs inte bara p.g.a. klimatförändringar, utan också av säkerhetsskäl och för energioberoende. Även andra delar av cleantechsektorn kommer att gynnas i takt med att länder blir rikare och efterfrågar en renare miljö. Dessutom har investerare dotcom-bubblan i färskt minne och kommer att vara mkt mer kritiska i granskningen av förhållandet mellan nuvarande vinster & värde.

fredag 15 juni 2007

Would an all-black Google have an impact on climate change?

By default, the pixels of your screen are black. Lighting them with bright colours requires more power. Therefore, web sites with white backgrounds, that are used by millions of users (like Google), cause a considerable use of energy. The people behind the page Blacke had that in mind when launching Blackle. The page consists of the Google search engine, but with a mostly black interface. According to Mark Ontkush, if Google would have a black background, energy use of their users would go down by 750MWh. This claim is however valid for old, energy hogging CRT screens - if all screens were to be of the modern LCD type, the numbers would be different. And even if 750MWh would be a correct figure, it is negigible when count per user.

But initiatives like Blackle are interesting, because they highlights the energy use of tech companies. Although the internet society reduces energy use on a macro level through distance work, reduced use of physical materia, etcetera, internet tech companies have come into focus regarding energy use.
With soaring costs for energy use (web giants like Yahoo and Google report yearly 20% to 40% increases in energy costs, not counting the cost for their users), it is going to be interesting to see how companies like Google respond to the impact of their business. As a starter, Google are installing asolar power system at the Googleplex.

onsdag 13 juni 2007

The uranium price boom

The subject of this post is somewhat related to nuclear power, a controversial issue among renewable energy proponents. Uranium price is increasing, which will make the price of nuclear power increase. The price of uranium has increased from the 2001 bottom of $6.70 to $130. That's a 2000% increase. This might not look very spectacular considering the general price increase of metals and other commodities. According to some, the prices are inflated because of speculation. There are however underlying geopolitical reasons for the uranium price boom, with obvious connections between the price of oil and the price of uranium.

Here is a short background for the price fluctuations of uranium:
- interest in nuclear power declined somewhat in the 80's because of environmental and other concerns. This lead to a certain over-capacity in uranium exploration, and to falling prices.
- falling prices reduced the incentives for new exploration, with several producers leaving the business.
- interest in nuclear is increasing because of the fear of climate change and the need to reduce CO2 emissions from power generation from fossil sources.
- fear of dwindling future sources makes the price go up even further

Of course, the higher price allows exploring companies to re-open old mines and reconsider projects that were not economically feasible some years ago.
Nuclear power is still cheaper than power from solar or wind resources, in most cases (especially when not counting different types of subsidies). And in Europe and elsewhere there is certain aversion to large-scale hydro power projects because of environmental concerns.
The soaring uranium prices could make power generation from renewable sources more competitive - as well as fossil based generation, ironically enough. But will this happen anytime soon? Probably not. The reason for this is the low effect of the cost of uranium and the price of power. Uranium only counts for about 5% of the price of power. This means that if the price of uranium increases with 100%, the price of power would only increase with 5%. As a comparison, the price of power generated from fossil sources is more price sensitive, and so is the price of many biofuels. For instance, the price of feedstock represents 75%-80% of the price of ethanol.
Thus, the price of uranium could soar even more - but nuclear power would still be more competitive than renewable power, price wise. For uranium being as expensive as oil, considering the price of the power, the price uranium would need to increase even further. Thus, the price of nuclear power will stay relatively low despite the uranium prices, and decreasing inventories won't change that. The competitiveness of nuclear power and it's weak relation to uranium prices is a challenge for proponents of power from renewable sources.

Ps. The uranium boom and the space for further price increases may be an eye-opener for persons looking for investment opportunities. It should be mentioned however that this doesn’t necessarily leads to uranium mining stocks booming. A 100% increase in the price of uranium does not automatically translate to a 100% increase in profit for there mining company, or soaring share values. And there will be differences between individual companies.

måndag 4 juni 2007

Fuel cells operating on biogas

This is very interesting, in several ways.

It is one of the worlds first fuel cell systems where the biogas is used directly in the cell - without using a fuel reformer. The fuel cells are of the high-temperature type, and a provided by Acumentrics of the United States.
It is an interesting addition for small-scale, remote biogas systems. Even more interesting would be if the the system would be easily scalable, for industrial applications.

It is no coincidence that this takes place in Sweden, country of perhaps the world's most advanced biogas applications. This is partially a result of a quite advanced waste and wastewater management industry (which is a result of decades of strict legislation), government "climate change" project subsidies and and integration of the waste & energy sectors.

It is also interesting because it is installed in Hammarby Sjöstad, a part of Stockholm designed according to the Sustainable City concept. The area counts with several innovative and holistic solutions regarding waste management, energy, water and transport, such as energy from solar panels and a nearby wastewater & waste biogas plant, a car pool and a waste separation system. Although yet to prove itself as a real export success, the concept has drawn interest from countries around the world.