As emerging clean technology companies reach stages of growth that require enormous amounts of deployment capital, investment figures for 2011 reflect that market dynamic.
Last year, global corporate and venture capital investments in cleantech grew 13% over 2010, reaching almost $9 billion, according to preliminary figures released from the Cleantech Group. Most of those investments are going to companies that have already picked up one or more rounds of funding, with 85% of dollars flowing into Series B rounds or later.
The most stunning increase in activity last year was in mergers and acquisitions, which grew by 154% in 2011. Because it’s often more attractive for cleantech companies to merge with a mature corporate parent rather than go public, the amount of exits in M&A have shot up dramatically.
In North America, private venture and corporate investments grew 30% over 2010, in spite of the political push to weave a narrative that clean energy is a “failure.” These figures once again show the stark disparity between out-of-touch Washington, DC political circles and the investment community, which still sees cleantech as a highly-important sector.
Solar lead the way in 2011, with $1.8 billion in venture investments. That’s about 20% of total venture investments world-wide last year. Just behind solar were efficiency and transportation:
SOLAR – $1.81 billion in 111 deals
- BrightSource Energy, a California-based developer of utility-scale concentrating solar power (CSP) technology, raised $201 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Alstom and others
- Stion, a California-based developer of CIGS thin-film solar technology, raised $130 million from AVACO, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, Khosla Ventures and others
- Miasolé, a California-based developer of CIGS thin-film solar technology, raised $106 million from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Voyageur Mutual Funds and others
ENERGY EFFICIENCY – $1.46 billion in 150 deals
- OSIsoft, a provider of real-time data infrastructure solutions for management of real-time data and events, raised $135 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Technology Crossover Ventures and others
- Prysm, a California-based developer of low-power, large-format display devices, raised $100 million from Artiman Ventures, Partech International and others
- Soraa, a California-based developer of gallium nitride based semiconductors for lighting, raised $88.6 million from New Enterprise Associates, Khosla Ventures and others
TRANSPORTATION – $1.12 billion in 61 deals
- Fisker Automotive, a California-based luxury electric vehicle manufacturer, raised three rounds totaling $315 million from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, New Enterprise Associates and others
- Better Place, an Israel-based provider of charging infrastructure and services for electric vehicles, raised $200 million from UBS, General Electric, VantagePoint Capital Partners, and others
- DriveCam, a California-based developer of transportation efficiency software, raised $85 million from Welsh Carson Anderson & Stowe
That’s not to say that this investment class is without some extraordinarily large challenges. With natural gas prices at historic lows, continued policy uncertainty on the federal level, and a terrible market for initial public offerings, there are plenty of variables that can impact an investment. Some venture investors are also finding that technical challenges and increasing needs for capital are making speed of exits slower than expected.
But don’t expect investor interest to wane. The Cleantech Group expects a continued increase in activity this year.
“Despite some of the well-publicized headwinds, venture capitalists continue to invest in cleantech. Based on our historical data, we believe 2012 will be an all-time record year for global cleantech investments,” said Sheraz Haji, CEO of the Cleantech Group, in a statement announcing the figures.