The cleantech is industry is still forging ahead even as broad economic indicators skid to 11-year lows.
Despite dismal stock valuations in the sector, cleantech deals are still being done at the private equity and venture levels, and Congressional support for the industry is stronger than ever. Certainly this fledgling industry still has many milestones to reach, as all indicators point to robust growth in all segments of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
But with so many grim financial headlines breaking everyday, our instincts generally direct us to dismiss good news like this; surely one industry can’t be succeeding as so many others fail.
To satiate our curiosity, I think it’s perfectly alright to look this gift horse in the mouth.
Cleantech Investment is Growing, For Real
Here’s how the Wall Street Journal described the 2008 cleantech venture climate:
. . . investments in clean-technology companies totaled $8.4 billion, up nearly 40% from 2007, according to Cleantech Group. In the third quarter alone, venture capitalists poured $2.6 billion into clean technology, a quarterly record. In the fourth quarter, they invested $1.7 billion.
It begs the question: What recession?
When you throw in the private equity numbers the picture gets even more impressive.
Combined private equity and venture capital funding in the cleantech sector has broken its own record every year since 2005. The number of deals at those levels of funding has grown from nine in 2000 to 243 in 2008.
Take a peek*:
And the amount of funding has gone from $1.02 billion to $16.5 billion in the same time. Here’s that chart*:
That’s just for early round financing. Activity in the debt and equity markets has also been robust, with $104.66 billion changing hands last year during 424 reported deals.
Regarding asset transactions, 2008 saw 133 deals–an all-time record–worth $9.45 billion.
So the funding numbers still look strong, albeit with recent slight contraction. How are the installed capacity numbers faring?
Clean Energy Capacity is Growing, Too
By all measures 2008 was a banner year for clean energy installation.
Over 26,000 MW of new wind power generation capacity was installed worldwide, bringing the total to over 118,000 MW. Wind capacity has grown every year since 2000 with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27%.
Last year was also a record year for solar energy installations. Not including thermal installations, global installed solar capacity reached about 13,300 MW in 2008–a full 66% growth over the previous year. Solar installations have also grown every year since 2000, but have done so more quickly, with a CAGR of 41.5%.
Geothermal, while not as sexy as wind or solar, has grown at a steady 3.2% clip since 2000, with over 9,200 installed megawatts.
Not to be outdone, ethanol production has more than tripled since 2000, and output last year was over 14.1 billion gallons. Biodiesel has done even better; production is up 1,205% since 2000 to over 2.49 billion gallons.
It’s a lot of data, I know. But it’s necessary to visualize the growth of various cleantech sectors.
As you can see, the industry is doing well even in the face of global economic uncertainty. And with billions slated for cleantech in the recently-passed stimulus, growth in the sector is also going to accelerate.
The $50-or so billion Federal dollars will have a ripple effect as new tax and bond incentives lure even more private capital into the space.
The way I see it, cleantech is America’s new Breadbasket. Billions of Federal dollars aren’t being spent to aid a failing industry, they’re being spent to expand a growing one that will be instrumental in our economic recovery.
New jobs, clean energy, increased efficiency. . . what more could you want?
The only thing I can think of are more new jobs, clean energy, and increased efficiency.
*Charts from GlobalData