The Week In Green Energy: Climate Change…, Please Stand By

by Terrence Murray - January 7, 2011

No cap-and-trade in the Boehner House (and that's one thing he won't cry about!)

After a two-week hiatus, G.E.R.’s The Week In Green Energy is back! And in Washington, after four years in the minority, Republicans are also back! Dark days for green energy lie ahead.

The last Congress, dominated by Democrats, had bold green ambitions and acted on at least some of them. In 2009-10 the House Democrats, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, of California, and other green warriors passed a comprehensive climate change bill, extended an ambitious package of green federal subsidies and proposed a slew of other cleantech-friendly measures.

Washington was looking like a green energy town, even without broad support from the Senate on the climate change bill.

Now, dark clouds are gathering over the Capitol as the incoming Republican majority is busy jettisoning what they believe are cumbersome green regulations. The first thing overboard? The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations, which Republicans moved to block on their first day in office.

Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson ruled in late 2009 that greenhouses gases were a health hazard and found the authority to regulate them under the Clean Air Act. The GOP considers that finding an unconscionable power grab by regulators.

Then, further underscoring where the Republican House stands in the energy debate, the new majority , created by Nancy Pelosi in 2006. The past four years have been extremely productive for that committee, which was headed by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. The committee held 80 hearings and briefings and played a role in crafting the 2007 energy bill, the 2009 green-themed stimulus package and finally, the 2009 climate bill.

This new reality shows the importance of December’s lame-duck-on-steroids session. After months of uncertainty the then-Democrat majority managed to bring some certainty to the renewable energy industry when it extended key green subsidies, including the 1603 cash-grants.

So, will it be all carbon and no green for the next two years? Largely, although measures like a Renewable Electricity Standard could — as we’ve previously reported — be one measure that could sway some moderate Republican votes and pass.

With no major, generational green legislation likely to come out of Congress for a while, let’s look north to Ontario, where effective green legislation is spurring investments and creating jobs. General Electric is the latest major player to decide that Ontario’s Green Energy Act could beef up its bottom line. Earlier this week, the company’s energy financing unit, GE Energy Financial Services partnered up with a Canadian developer to acquire a 50-megawatt solar portfolio from First Solar. This is GE’s first solar investment in Canada, and marks one of the few times, the Fairfield, Conn., industrial conglomerate takes a stake in soon-to-be operating solar power plants.

How effective has the Green energy Act been? Last year Ontario signed power purchase agreements for almost 2,400 megawatts of installed renewable energy, more than half for wind power.

VC and PE Watch

Santa Monica, Calif.-based Electric car maker Coda raised $76 million in fresh cash from new investors, including Harbinger Capital Partners, the hedge fund owned by Philip Falcone.

Qteros, the Marlborough, Mass., developer of cellulosic ethanol, closed on an initial $22 million tranche in its third round of venture funding.

Lincoln Renewable Energy (LRE) raised $14 million in venture capital funding led by Austin Ventures.

Global Energy Investors (GEI) told G.E.R. that it expected to close a $200 million green energy-focused investment fund by the end of the first quarter.

SAIL Venture Partners, the cleantech-focused venture capital fund, hired Christopher Brown as a senior associate in its Irvine, Calif. office.

Solar Power Technologies (SPT), a developer of technology that optimize the performance of large solar power plants, secured $6.8 million in venture funding.

Rambling

On Monday three top executives at French car maker Renault by security personnel, suspended without pay and asked never to enter the building again. The three executives, who were all involved in developing the company’s next-generation electric cars, are accused of industrial espionage, reportedly leaking information to subcontractors that would have helped themin future bids. The incident shows how important electric cars are for automobile companies. The market is bound to grow and surpass our current combustion engine-based technology. With the stakes this high, the act of passing along IP secrets, as the three executives are alleged to have done, is in the eyes of Renault (and its competitors) tantamount to industrial treason!

Photo: Westchesterbuzz, Adam Kiefaber, Flickr

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