The Week In Green Energy: The Local Option

by Terrence Murray - July 30, 2010

WCI partners and observers

A week after the Democratic Senate leadership killed comprehensive energy reform, the onus is on the states to fix the country’s emission and energy problems.

We saw the beginnings of this with the release, this week, by the (WCI) of a proposal that over the next 10 years would seek to cap CO2 and green house gases by 15 percent by 2020. The emission cuts would save participants an estimated $100 billion in fuel costs. The WCI, an organization that brings together seven U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, carries some punch. It’s the “real thing” because unlike other to cap CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, the initiative covers large industrial facilities and the transportation sector that are the biggest source of emissions,” in areas that aren’t dependent on coal.

The proposal still faces some major hurdles. First, not all WCI partners have bought into the plan. So far only California, New Mexico, Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia have agreed to participate in the trading scheme. Out are: Arizona, Utah, Washington, Oregon, Montana, and Manitoba. In the California governor’s race, climate change has become an issue, with Republican candidate Meg Whitman vowing to delay the implementation of the state’s comprehensive climate change law. Democratic candidate Jerry Brown is against any delay and says the law, formerly known as is “.” A Whitman victory could be bad news for the WCI proposal.

One company set to benefit from California’s energy and climate change legislation is Solyndra, the Fremont, Calif., maker of cylindrical solar photovoltaic systems. The company, one of the most promising solar startups, experienced a few setbacks this spring after its mandatory pre-IPO S1 filling highlighted the company’s high manufacturing costs that were eating its profit margins. Faced with growing investor concern, the company shelved its $300 million IPO to tackle the production cost issue. The company, which was a no-show a few weeks ago at Intersolar, a major industry event, re-emerged this week in a big way. It started off the week by announcing the hiring of a new CEO, former Intel executive Brian Harrison. He replaces founding CEO Chris Gronet (who stays on as chairman). The hiring underscores how serious the company is about cutting costs. Harrison was hired, in part, because of the manufacturing experience he acquired while overseeing Intel’s global wafer production. Over the next two years Harrison will seek to cut Solyndra’s production costs by 33 percent — from about $3.00/watt to about $2.00/watt by 2013.

Then, on Friday, Solyndra announced that it’s Photon Solar subsidiary to supply Southern California Edison with 16 megawatts of electricity generated from rooftop-mounted panels. The deal insures Solyndra’s long-term revenues and is an obvious way — one used by some of its competitors — to monetize its panels.

On the BP front, the inevitable finally happened: Tony Hayward was exiled to Russia (really!) and replaced as CEO by American and Gulf state-native Robert Dudley. Hayward was sitting atop a steaming pile of media gaffes and insensitive comments, (remember: “I want my life back…”) and his days as head of BP were numbered. The board apparently decided that now the spill was under control and it was a good time to bring in a new CEO. Dudley’s media skills are a definite improvement compared to his predecessor. However, like Hayward, he’s a veteran oil man and so he’s not likely to drastically change the company’s oil-focused strategy implemented by Hayward when he took over from Lord Browne back in 2007. In the U.S., Dudley will work overtime to ensure that BP keeps and grows its U.S. exploration and production business.

VC and PE Watch

Riverstone Holdings-backed Intrinergy, a Richmond, Va. biomass renewable energy company, is negotiating a long-term wood pellet supply agreement with a European power company and could sign a contract in the next few week, an industry source told G.E.R.

Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group, a developer of syngas technology, raised $110 million in a new round of equity funding led by Los Angeles-based Ares Management.

Energy storage company Xtreme Power closed a $29.5 million financing round led by new investors Bessemer Venture Partners and Dow Chemical Company’s Venture Capital group and existing investor SAIL Venture Partners.

Chicago-based AllCell Technologies, a developer of technology that can double the life-span of lithium-ion batteries, is in the process of raising $5 million and expects to close financing by year-end, G.E.R. learned.


““. That headline (h/t Treehuger) was a winner. Canada — unlike its neighbor to the south– is rarely derided for its imperial aspirations. But, apparently, Bjork disagrees.

Back in her native Iceland, Bjork has been heading a popular uprising to prevent Canadian developer Magma Energy from controlling HS Orka, one of the country’s largest geothermal power company. Unlike the U.S. or Canada, where geothermal generation is small, Iceland depends on geothermal power for all of its power needs. The Bjork-led rebellion claims that if Magma has its way, a foreign company will control some of the country’s largest geothermal reserves. The island-nation’s center-left government has launched an investigation on the HS Orka acquisition. Magma is still going, full steam ahead, and officials say they will not let Bjork derail the acquisition. On Tuesday, Magma closed a C$45 million ($43.6 million) share issuance to fund its purchase of outstanding shares of HS Orka from Geysir Energy.

Map: Western Climate Initiative

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