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Green Energy Sector Weekly Update: Banks Remain Cautious on Green Investments

With Congress adjourned and a Democratic majority that’s fighting for its survival, it sure doesn’t seem like these green initiatives are going to be expanded anytime soon. That stark reality is pushing the green deal economy to move quickly to get projects approved by year-end. The clock is ticking and developers want a piece of the government pie while it’s still available

On the regulatory front, we’ve seen California’s powerful energy commission green light a record 2,729 megawatts of solar projects over the past month. Just this week the commission approved Tessera Solar’s 709-megawatt Imperial Valley project and NextEra Energy’s 250 megawatt Genesis project. “In order to qualify for federal stimulus funds, the projects needed to be approved… before December 31, 2010,” the commission said. Translation: time is running out.

Banks funding renewable energy projects are also busy. Despite credit committees remaining selective, project finance bankers tell G.E.R. that they’re having a busy end of year. One banker with German bank NORD/LB says that “if all goes well” he’s looking at closing about $500 million in renewable energy funding in the next 90 days. This week NORD /LB closed the financing for Starwood Energy’s 30 megawatt, SSM2 solar project in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.

Another banker tells us she’s got about $1 billion of potential solar and wind funding poised to close by the end of the year. Are we back to pre-financial crisis days? “No, definitely not,” she says. Two years after the global financial implosion, banks remain cautious and will likely continue to be as long as economic growth remains lackluster, she explains. “Project finance is pegged to economic growth and right now there’s no economic growth,” the banker points out.

Cash-rich Google, undeterred by the poor economy, is plowing ahead, building its green business. Yes, “business.”  What two years ago started more as a “do-gooder” initiative is looking more and more like a business. Playing a part in that transformation are scientists like Philip Gleckman, who joined Google from solar developer eSolar, G.E.R. was first to report.  Gleckman’s hiring underscores how serious the search engine giant is about moving beyond the role of cleantech investor and eventually driving innovation from Mountainview, Calif.

UBS, already active advising a number of green companies on potential IPOs, told employees this week that it would launch a dedicated renewable energy and cleantech investment-banking group.  The Zurich-based bank is obviously betting it can reap some hefty fees advising the green industry and that the regulatory uncertainty in the U.S. is a temporary hiccup.

VC and PE Watch

Mountain View, Calif.-based SolFocus, a developer of concentrated solar power technology, told G.E.R. that it expected to close a Series D round of venture funding in the next few weeks.

Crosslink Capital closed on a $200 million investment fund that will support both cleantech and technology opportunities.

Solar power company PVT Solar raised $13.7 million in a series B round led by Sigma Partners.

Zep Solar, a San Rafael, Calif. solar power equipment maker, closed a $7.4 million Series A.

Dutch cleantech fund Icos Capital raised an undisclosed amount to launch a second cleantech fund, dubbed Icos Cleantech Early Stage Fund II (ICF II).

CalCEF’s Clean Energy Angel Fund could raise a second angel fund, a spokesperson tells G.E.R. Last week the San Francisco investment fund closed on an $11 million angel fund.

Rambling

On Friday, Chinese wind turbine manufacturer China Ming Yang Wind Power Group went ahead with its $350 million IPO.  A close look at the release announcing the pricing of the IPO underscored two realities about China’s renewable energy sector – its dependence on foreign technology (China Ming Yang’s wind turbine were first developed in Germany) and its dependence (at the expense of foreign companies) on its home market. In 2009, Ming Yang turbine accounted for more than 50 percent of China’s newly installed wind capacity. The huge Chinese market is a good market to corner but, at least when it comes technological innovation, Europe and the U.S.  have the lead over China, for now.

Source: Green Energy Reporter




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