tisdag 25 november 2008

Recovery through Infrastructure and Cleantech Investments

According to Cleantechies.com, infrastructure and alternative energy will be two areas which Obama's recovery plan will focus on.

There are signs of similiar strategies in other countries. If carried out, this may soften the fall of young cleantech companies even further.

Morphic Biogas Fuel Cell System

After successful pilot testing, Morphic will no start to market a complete system for biogas-to-hydrogen transformation. The reformer technology comes from their subsidiary Helbio S.A. and generates a hydrogen used in fuel cells from Exergy Fuel Cells, another subsidiary.
Naturally, biogas from waste disposal centres, farms and waste water treatment plants could be upgraded and used directly for heating, power generation or vehicle propulsion; it is not entirely necessary to convert it to hydrogen. But thanks to the conversion, the application is more versatile. The hydrogen can be used wherever fuel cells are necessary.
Read more about it here (in Swedish).

Biogas fuel cell applications, but with a rather different technology, have earlier been discussed here

lördag 15 november 2008

Wave Power Competition

WaveRoller and WaveDragon, technologies that have been mentioned earlier in this blog, are far from alone in the quest for efficient utilization of the energy generated by waves and tides.
earth2tech providedes a neat summary of 12 other competitors.

lördag 25 oktober 2008

Short term challenges, long term opportunities

No sector is immune to the current financial unrest, and also many cleantech companies will face hard times during the next year or two. And highly leveraged projects, as often is the case with many wind power, may be postponed or cancelled.

Still, there are reasons to believe that the cleantech sector will fare relatively better than other areas. And in the long term, the outlook is still positive. The reasons are several:

  • Renewable, domstic energy is a measure to improve national security. It's a long-term necessity independent of the current financial unrest. Public funding will continue to reach the necessary goals.
  • The possible physical mechanisms behind climate change are indifferent to a Wall Street crisis. Companies who embrace this fact will act accordingly and invest in renewable energy and related technology as a long term strategic resource. Further on, renewable energy will be a priority for public funding.
  • Emerging economies will participate in the global emissions market. Sooner or later, giant economies like China and India need to share the burden and reduce the CO2/$ growth ratio.

  • Higher living standards in emerging economies will increase consumer consciousness and the demand for a cleaner near-environment. When you are starving you don't have time to bother about smog or inadequate waste-management, but as conditions improve, these issues will come closer to the top of the agenda. That is good news for companies within these sectors.

  • Energy efficient is more important than ever when times are hard and resources scarse.

In particular, projects and technologies that benefit from public funding will find less problems than others. So will those companies and projects financed by equity rather than debt. The situation is troubling, but there is no need to panic.

onsdag 15 oktober 2008

Volvo to resume development of gas vehicles?

Volvo CEO Stephen Odell has only been working for Volvo during a few weeks. According to a recent interview(in Swedish), Volvo may now reconsider their decision to not develop any more gas vehciles.

With their gas vehicles, Volvo had a relatively important part in the promotion of biogas in Sweden during the late 90's and early 00's. During these years the biogas sector developed considerably, with several technology companies starting up as a result. A few years later, Volvo informed about their decision to not develop gas versions of coming models. Until now, perhaps.

tisdag 14 oktober 2008

Wave Power Already Profitable?

According to a study by Olav Olsen A.S. on behalf of Norwegian Langlee Wavepower, wave power technlogy from Langlee and other companies may already profitable in some parts of Europe such as Great Britain, Ireland and Portugal. The reason for this is the high prices of other types of ocean based energy in these countries.

Langlee, partly (10%) owned by Swedish Borevind, is developing a wave power technology that can exploit the energy relatively small waves.
Publicera inlägg

torsdag 25 september 2008

Cleantech Opportunities in the Eye of the Storm?

The current financial crisis could possibly affect the energy industry in profound ways, according to Wall Street Journal

Although most opportunities may seem risky at this point, for investor with financial soundness and strength now could be a good period to acquire and take over undervalued assets. With banks turning down borrowers, projects could remain undeveloped and innovations left unfinanced.
Speaking of acqusitions, the largest Swedish power company Vattenfall has made an offer on British Eclipse Energy. The offer at £18 per share roughly amounts to £51,5 million. The company has a 250MW combined natural gas and wind power offshore project, on the coast of England, and five land based wind power projects in Wales. Iberdrola and EON are mentioned as other "predators".

tisdag 16 september 2008

New Swedish cleantech company to promote electric car networks in Sweden

According to its CEO Patrik Nilsson, Sustainable Innovation Sust is "a national centre for energy efficiency in everyday life"
The Swedish company is so far supported by a dozen companies, among them Scania, Vattenfall and Sustainable Technology Partners.

Among the top priority for the company is to develop an infrastructue for electric vehicles in Sweden. Through a pilot project using 50-100 electric vehicles Sust and its partner companies will develop an infrastructure and a paymento model.

This project is interesting considering projects being planned or carried out in Israel, Germany and Denmark.

A mix of efforts to achieve higher transport sustainability is necessary to avoid being restrained to only one or two, potentially vulnerable technologies (such as 1st generation ethanol).

tisdag 12 augusti 2008

IKEA Greentech - a new Swedish cleantech investor

IKEA will invest in Swedish and European cleantech companies, through it's subsidiary IKEA Greentech AB. IKEA prospers from the interesting combination of a excellent distribution network and customer base and a very solid financial position.

In particular, IKEA will invest in cleantech companies with products that benefit it's clients (they amount to 500 000 000), warehouses (270) or suppliers (1500), from the alternative energy and energy efficiency areas.

So what should they focus on? Do the maths, 500 000 000 clients is a very interesting customer base. Hence, finding high-quality products relevant for IKEA's customer should be a top priorirt. Further on, they should be cost-efficient in small scale. An area that satisfies both of these conditions is energy efficiency (including water and material efficency). I would say that where the largest potential is to be found.
Small-scale energy generation using energy from the sun (solar power, solar heating and wind power) does fit with the first description. Small-scale energy generation is getting increasingly popular whit high petroleum prices, and solar insolation is favourable in many of the countries where IKEA is present. However, as discussed earlier, the efficiency of these installations is often far lower than medium- to large scale plants.

Considering what may be useful for their suppliers and warehouses, other areas may be interesting as well.

fredag 25 juli 2008

Sweden has got the largest share of renewable energy in the European Union

Sweden the top nation in the European Union regarding the share of energy coming from renewable sources, according to a recent study by the Swedish Energy Agency. Hydropower and forrest-based bioenergy are two contributing factors. 43,3% of the energy comes from renewable, up from 33,9% in 1990. 52% of the power supply is generated by renewable sources. The largest share is reached in the power sector, followed by the paper & pulp industries and the district heating sector. According to the study, the largest room for improvements regards the transport sector, which only represents 1% of the renewable energy use in Sweden.

Other countries in Scandinavia, while non-members of the European Union, generate an ever higher share of their energy from renewable sources. Iceland is the foremost example, with 73% of total primary energy supply and 100% of power production comes from renewable sources. Further on, an impressive 98% of Norwegian power supply comes from hydropower.

There are certainly many opportunities to increase the share of renewable energy in Sweden even further. Many medium-sized to large initiatives are under way. Large wind farms are being developed throughout the country for power production, and many medium-scale biogas plants are planned in southern and central Sweden. The biogas sector is already extensive in southern Sweden and in the Stockholm area. Further it is fairly within reach to increase the hydro power output by increasing and optimizing the generation the rivers already being used, and to develop low-temperature geothermal energy systems for heating. And as capital costs decrease, solar power and wave power will also be feasible options, although it would take many years for these types of energy to constitute an important part of the Swedish energy sector.

onsdag 23 juli 2008

Fortum to invest US$ 10 million in cleantech venture capital fund

Finnish energy consortium will invest US$10 million in the Canadian cleantech fund Chrysalix Clean Energy Fund.

The investment portfolio of Chrysalix includes solar power, fusion power research and fuel cell technology. More investemnts are being evaluated.

The purpose of these investment activities at Fortum is said to be dual; to gain strategic insight in new energy technology and to receive sound financial returns.
Investments in new clean technology will be made both internally and externally. Through enhanced R&D activities Fortum hope to gain long term competitive advantages.

Read more about it here.

onsdag 4 juni 2008

Interesting IT solution for fuel efficiency

Swedish company Blueflow Technologies has developed a technology for informing boat operators on fuel combination and speed. With simple additions to the boat, and with a wireless connection, it is possible to display the information on a cell phone or laptop computer.

Using this information it is easier for the boat owner to choose speeds with higher fuel efficiency. With soaring oil prices, investments in technology like these pay off in even shorter periods. Further on, BlueFlow are sure to find a strong domestic market as well, Sweden is the country with the most leisure boats per capita.

Check it out here

onsdag 28 maj 2008

Lignoboost aqcuired byt Metso Power

Lignoboost and their predecessors have during almost a decade developed a promising technology to produce biofuels from black-liquor a byproduct from the pulp industry. Now they are taken over by Finnish group Metso.

I have earlier mentioned them regarding my skepticism about some ability to attract Swedish VC. Well, at least they got aqcuired by a large group of companies, that already produce technology with the same target market. That will open up many opportunities for Lignoboost.
It will be interesting to see however, if politicians, public servants and institutional investors will take this as another example of the Swedish cleantech "brain-drain": the inability of Swedish cleantech companies to attract national investors, and the eventual take-over from foreign companies (Solibro being a high-profiled example). Further on, would it is interesting to question wether this is a problem or not.

torsdag 15 maj 2008

Hemmamarknaden för biogasteknik

Biogasprojekt får en tredjedel av KLIMP-stödet, rapporterar Ny Teknik.

Detta är mycket glädjande, eftersom det är det mest klimateffektiva biobränslet som existerar på kommersiell basis. Detta är inte främst genom högt energivärde i gasen (som i ej uppgraderad rågas endast uppnår 55 % - 65 % av energivärdet hos naturgas), utan för att kontrollerad rötning väldigt ofta ersätter alternativa behandlingssätt där avfallet spontanrötas och släpper utan metan till atmosfären. Som bekant är metan som växthusgas c:a 20 gånger mer potent än koldioxid. Att KLIMP-pengar hamnar i biogasprojekt är därför ett effektivt användande av pengarna. Det är givetvis också logiskt tillfredställande att man utnyttjar avfall som en resurs och inte som skräp.

Ett antal projekt planeras runt om i landet

En stark hemmamarknad gynnar våra inhemska biogasföretag, som de senaste åren blivit några fler, i form av företag som Scandinavian Biogas och Swedish Biogas International. De viktigaste utrustningsföretagen kommer däremot från Tyskland. Här är några av de främsta svenska företagen:

Läckeby Water Group
Malmberg Water
Sweco VIAK
Scandinavian Biogas
Swedish Biogas International
Bioprocess Control

onsdag 14 maj 2008

Quote of the day

"Don't get the idea that I've turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money."

-- T. Boone Pickens in the Guardian

Takeover king & oil baron T-Boone is planning a $10bn, 4GW wind farm in Texas, which would be the world's largest. He still thinks that wind turbines are ugly. Despite the merits of wind power, I do understand that many find wind turbines as not appealing. It would be far less visually obtrusive to generate power from waste heat (which is possible with the Opcon Power box).

By the way, Boone's biography is entertaining and can be find at bargain prices.

måndag 12 maj 2008

The state of the Swedish cleantech market

According to E24 (in Swedish), Swedish cleantech companies face a dismal outlook, with only 3 out of 14 publicly traded companies making a profit last year.

A few observations could be made however. First of all, these numbers should not be taken as a representation of the whole cleantech market. Many successful cleantech companies are not traded on the public stock market. It is also important to remember that many companies not mentioned in the article work with cleantech in one way or another, but only as a part of their product or service portfolio. For instance: Sweco (consulting), ABB (energy efficiency, etc) and Alfa Laval (biofuel equipment, etc). Further on, in the long term several of the companies mentioned in the article face growing demand for their products.

To invest in a company that is yet to make a profit requires excellent market insight and at least a basic technical understanding of the products being offered. And even more so than in the case of investing young but profitable companies. Rome wasn't built in a day and many cleantech companies will need several years of R&D before being able to launch a competitive product. Ambitious innovators may become early leaders in developing markets. But without an initial knowledge, the outside investor might as well bring her or his money to a racecourse, where the gambling is equally risky but more exciting.

onsdag 7 maj 2008

Investments in renewable energy reach USD100 billion per year

Renewable energy investments now amount to USD100bn according to a report by the United Nations.

There is no question about this area being a part of the mainstream investment world. Some types of renewable energy investemts (large scale hydropower projects in particular) have represented an important part in the portfolio of energy companies since decades or even longer. Other kinds, such as wind power and solar power play an important role since more recently.

And a higher demand for energy, increasing oil prices, an increasing world population and the fear of climate change is going to keep the importance of this area growing. Cleantech is one of the fastest growing investment sectors in the US, increasing by 18% during the first quarter of this year - despite the current financial unrest. And as I predicted, energy efficiency plays an increasingly important part. It is the fastest growing segment in cleantech, with capital invested in Power and Efficiency Management Services increasing 454% from last year.

According to the National Academy of Engineering, of the 14 greatest engineering challenges for humanity, almost half are related to renewable energy and cleantech. If that tells us something about the future, the cleantech and renewable energy share of investments will keep growing.

söndag 4 maj 2008

Innovative farming to combat climate change and soaring food prices

With food and crops prices soaring causing world-wide protest, the biofuel industry has come under heavy fire. In particular, biodiesel and ethanol production from corn, wheat, soy beans and other is questioned, but also biofuel production from other sources ; considering that the land could be used for food crops.
Biogas, should of course not course not be questioned in this way, as its relation to food prices is still very distant, and it is by far the most climate friendly biofuel.
The demand for crops is fueled by laws demanding a certain share of renewable energy (such as the
proposed EU-wide target of 10 percent by 2020) or subsidy programs (such as ethanol subsidies).

Other factors are even more important for crops prices, such as increased meat and bread consumption in China and India. Further on, some claim that the situation is worsened beceause of market inefficiency as a result of faulty goverment policies such as trade barriers and agricultural subsidies.

There are few reasons to believe that the situation is going to improve in a near future. Although it would be possible to improve efficiency, farming methods and logistics in some parts of the world, growing global demands for a higher living standard (including more meat) and for biofuels will keep increasing the prices.
In the medium term however, there are several interesting technologies that may not only increase productivity, but also decrease the need of farm land and replace some agricultural products entirely. They may seem rather un-orthodox, and perhaps even appalling to some. Still they may contribute to reduce the crops and food prices. How about:

In vitro meat
The livestock meat industry is very inefficient from an energy and nutritional point of view: 75% to 95% of what is used to feed the animal is lost through metabolism or transformed into inedible structures. Meat production needs up to ten times more energy per edible ton compared to grain production. In vitro meatis meat grown in laboratories, with ambitions to scale up the production to industrial scale in a near future. Basically, the meat is grown using stem cells or satellite cells, focusing on producing muscle fibers and fats. Hopefully, this could mean cheap meat with less animal suffering, less areal needed for grain production, less energy use and less methane emissions from livestock herds.

Chemical-free seed treatment
Although in vitro meat may raise some eye brows, most people would probably find the endeavors of Swedish-Dutch company Seedgard praiseworthy.
Crop diseases is a serious problem in several parts of the world, with recent outbursts of for instance black stem rust almost creating a disastrous famine. Traditionally, the seeds for sowing corn have been treated in chemical-intensive methods, to kill fungi and disease-generating organisms.
In the developing countries, not even the dirty methods are available to most farmers in the developing countries. Seedgard has developed a method for treating the seeds using hot air instead of chemicals, being no less efficient than traditional methods, and in some cases even more efficient.

Genetic engineering for better biofuel crops
From an environmental point of view, there are several reasons to be suspicious about genetically modified crops, which makes the use of modified crops for improved biofuel production a ”green dilemma”. Still, this branch of biotechnology could be an important part of the effort to reduce world hunger. During the last few years, research has been increasingly aimed at improving seeds and crops for biofuel production, in particular ethanol and biodiesel.
There are countless efforts in this field, with the variation of the type of research being great. Among the modifications are corn varieties that contain enzymes that otherwise would be needed to add later in the ethanol production, corn with a higher fermentable starch content (increasing the ethanol production with 2%-5%) to designing new biofuels from scratch. All of these efforts could be melted down to one desired result: more litres per acre.

Farm sky scrapers
If farms could be vertical rather than horizontal, less land would be needed for agriculture. This is something to have in mind when reading about projects as SkyFarm, a Toronto real estate project where food will produced in a 58-floor building. There are other projects under planning as well. Among the benefits growing vegetables and crops in an artificial environment in skyscraper like buildings: producing the food in urban areas, closer to the consumers reduces transport costs (and thereby emissions), protect the crops from pollution and unpredictable weather and against diseases.

Time will tell, which of these concepts will make a real difference in the quest for cheaper food and more biofuel. From an investor point of view, it is interesting to follow a few related companies closely, in particular gene-tech and seed companies such as Ceres, Syngenta and Targeted Growth.

måndag 28 april 2008

Is domestic fuel production feasible?

Swedish scientist Bengt Steen of Chalmers University pretends to produce a renewable fuel, by letting hydrogen react with carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The hydrogen is to be produced from solar power, wind power or hydro power. Moreover, the technology is to be small-scale, housed in a container no larger than a refrigerator. An ambitious idea, but is it economically feasible?
Well, at least Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) has some trust in the idea. Mistra will provide 4 MSek (approx. USD700000) of funding for the project.

Steen says that the small scale is "more" sustainable than current energy technology. But is small-scale fuel generation really sustainable? Or is the beauty of the concept more related to the somewhat utopist idea of everyone being energy independent?

This project still is at a very early stage, so it’s hard to comment on the financial aspects of this project. But small scale applications are often inefficient compared to larger scale ones. Further on, from a material point of view it is in many cases a waste of resources to produce a large number of small units for home users, than to assemble central plants. This is the case of many small-scale energy applications, such as anaerobic digestion, solar power and wind power.

Small scale may sound beautiful, but will it be sufficiently cost-efficient? Steen has an interesting challenge. Still, even if consumers would make a net profit from domestic production, this concept could still find a market in Sweden. Interest in domestic energy supply is high, as shown by a recent study. 68% of the persons asked reply that they are “very interested” in generating their own power (or own shares in wind power plants). Some legal obstacles remain however.