May Top Ten Players In Green Energy

by Terrence Murray - June 8, 2010

1: Tony Hayward, BP CEO

As any coach of a professional sports team knows, when your bosses publicly declare their support for you, the end is nigh. So it is with BP head Tony Hayward, who, a spokesman has averred, To be sure, Hayward has been dealt a horrible hand. It is one thing for a catastrophic oil spill to happen on your watch, it is quite another for it to happen in ecologically sensitive waters within view of the American media. But Hayward has been unable to get ahead of the crisis at any point. BP has shown little interest in getting an accurate flow rate, leaving itself open to charges that it�s hiding the extent of the spill. Hayward has sought to minimize the environmental impact and talked about how inconvenient the spill is for him saying, �You know, I�d like my life back.� He has, inadvertently, made a convincing case for green energy legislation. Shareholders might forgive these gaffes, but they can�t overlook the billions in market value that have been lost during this misadventure. Hayward will be out soon after the relief well finally stops the flow.

2: The BP� Live Video Feed

Welcome to new, new media BP!� For weeks, Americans have had a front-row seat of the massive BP oil spill thanks to a direct link to dozens of cameras streaming live footage from deep inside the Gulf of Mexico (we can thank Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., for that). More than the Obama administration’s� “boot on neck” threat or the torrent of negative spin from talking heads and journalists, the video feed has crystallized the deep damage the crude gushing out of BP’s Deep Horizon well has had on the environment and people of the Gulf. Void of the video feed, the spill might have remained an abstract concept, defined by sporadic aerial videos of oil sleeks and confusing statistics. The live video stream will help ensure that BP lives up to its promise to “” and clean up what is one of the country’s largest environmental disasters.

3: Better Place

For anyone looking for a confirmation that cleantech financing and, in particular green VC funding, is an altogether different beast than early stage investments in straight technology companies, look no further than Better Place. Last month, the provider of electric vehicle services closed on a massive $350 million financing led by HSBC. Back in 2007, Better Place raised $200 million and by the time the company deploys in its launch-market, Israel, Better Place will have invested about $1 billion. That’s a lot of money for a company that has not yet turned a profit. Better Place plans to make money by selling owners of battery-powered automobiles a given amount of kilometers /miles in a battery, against a monthly fee.� Whether this monetization plan will work is still up for debate.� Right now, the one certainty for investors backing Better Place (and cleantech ventures in general ) is that, while the path to profitability remains hazy, what’s crystal clear is that Better Place and its competitors will depend on government subsidies for their survival and that — over an untested business plan — is a certainty investors can bank on.

4: Tony Blair

What�s a relatively young and energetic world statesman to do after leaving office? The life of $100,000-and-up motivational speeches and flying around on your buddies� personal jets is a little limiting � why not go Al Gore�s route and make a mint in green-focused venture capital?� Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair chose the latter path and announced this month that he would join famed investor Vinod Khosla�s firm as a senior adviser. Blair was upfront about his lack of expertise in technology and finance, but said he was �thrilled to play whatever small part� he can. He will likely serve as a first class deal broker, connecting the right people with the right deals. And so what if he gets a big payday � his star power will be good for cleantech and green energy.� As Al Gore said � �I absolutely believe in investing in ways that are consistent with my values and beliefs.�

5: Google

Three-years into its closely scrutinized RE<C (develop renenewable energy cheaper than coal) plan, it’s hard to figure out exactly what Google is trying to achieve with its green investments. Does it want to replicate what its done for web searches and marketing in the green sector? Or maybe it just might want to be a good corporate citizen. What’s for sure is that Google is trying its hand at everything to see what, in the end, will stick and succeed. It’s developing in-house solar technology, it’s an early-stage investor in a number of cutting-edge cleantech companies, and, as of this month, Google has become a part-owner of a wind farm. Google is definitely a committed green investor, but, let’s face it, a few investments in promising technologies and some backing of a few wind farms scattered around the globe will not change the world. And isn�t changing the world what Google is all about?

6: Enel Green Power

What was setting up to be one of the largest green Initial Public Offering’s (IPO) is on hold, indefinitely. More than a year in the making, prospects for the �4 billion ($5.09 billion) IPO of Enel Green Power, the clean energy subsidiary of Italian power company Enel, are shaky, at best.� Why the reversal?� One issue might be the less than stellar performance of recent clean energy IPOs.� Shares of battery maker A123 systems (NASDAQ: AONE), which issued shares last fall, are trading far below their introductory price. Biofuel maker Codexis (NASDAQ: CDXS) has flatlined since its own IPO more than a month ago. To raise cash, Enel is reportedly looking to forge a partnership with a financial or strategic partner. That partner could be Enel’s own Spanish subsidiary, Endesa.

7: National Grid

Earlier this month, National Grid agreed on the terms of a long-term power purchase agreement for half of Cape Wind’s 420-megawatt output. The deal boosts the chances that this pioneer project, the U.S.’s first offshore wind farm, will get done. The Massachusetts Public Utility Commission still has to approve the deal. National Grid is paying 20.7 cents per kWh over a 15-year period, which is more than twice the typical market rate for power in New England. The steep price could push the PUC to press Cape Wind and National Grid to broker a cheaper PPA. Earlier this year, the Rhode Island PUC actually rejected a proposed contract between National Grid and the proposed Deepwater Wind project off Block Island because it was too expensive. Could the Cape Wind PPA meet that fate? There might be some back-and-forth between the PUC, National Grid and Cape Wind, but Cape Wind, its powerful state and its federal backers will ensure that this project is completed…but at what price? That’s still up in the air.

8: BrightSource Energy

Your investors say a lot about you. So when BrightSource Energy announced a $150 million equity round from a group of investors including the California State Teachers Retirement System, one of the largest pension funds in the United States, it was a signal that they had arrived. Another investor, French conglomerate Alstom, made its first ever investment in solar power with BrightSource. The Oakland-based concentrating solar power company, has posted a string of successes in recent months, from winning a $1.37 billion loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to getting approval to proceed with the Ivanpah Solar Electric Plant in the Mojave Desert. The $150 million financing round will be used to build 14 solar power plants in the U.S. Southwest that will generate 2.61 gigawatts. What�s more, the power has already been sold. Other green energy make headlines, but BrightSource is actually making power.

9: U.S. Sens. John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman

John Kerry and Joseph Lieberman�s American Power Act �has about as much of a chance right now as an oil-soaked cattle egret off the Chandeleur Islands.� That was our prediction for the latest iteration of the senate climate bill about a month ago. Its prospects have improved somewhat since President Barack Obama has realized that supporting the bill might be the best way to rid himself of the taint of the Gulf spill. Still, the bill needs a lot of finessing, particularly with respect to the offshore drilling provisions that have repulsed coastal Democrats but, as of a few weeks ago, still weren�t strong enough for Republicans. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Lieberman, a Connecticut Independent, have been politicking to gain support for the measure. One way forward may be to transform the bill into a �BP Spill Bill� by inserting language lifting the $75 million liability limit for offshore spill disasters. Whatever the final tweaks, the bill is fundamentally sound and absolutely necessary for the future of green energy and the climate.

10: Lu Yeung, cleantech analyst, Bank of America Merrill Lynch

It’s not so much analyst Lu Yeung’s accurate� and bullish predictions that helped land him the top spot in a recent Wall Street Journal ranking (for more on that, see here). It’s what he’s saying now that’s caught our attention. True, Yeung really is bullish about Chinese cleantech companies. Who wouldn’t be?� They are serving what is, according to some estimates, the world’s largest renewable energy market. Yet Yeung also warns that Chinese alternative energy companies are limited by a thin intellectual property portfolio, so long-term, these companies cannot bank on their price advantage alone. Yeung says that to stay competitive, Chinese clean energy companies have to develop their own technologies. That strong forward-looking analysis, coming from one of the best cleantech analysts (according to The Wall Street Journal) shouldn’t be ignored!

2 Responses to “May Top Ten Players In Green Energy”

  1. says:

    This lineup would make a great calendar.

  2. [...] We still believe the change in leadership will come as part of the company�s �clean start� (or something along those lines) marketing campaign a few weeks after the spill is done. [...]

Leave a Reply