Cleantech payoff for GE, lure for VCs

GE released its “Ecomagination” report today outlining the company’s cleantech performance since the new business strategy was launched a year ago. So far, they’re claiming success. The company said its revenues from ecomagination products hit $10.1 billion (U.S.) in 2005, up substantially from $6.2 billion in 2004. The company also said its orders and commitments nearly doubled to $17 billion and that its pipeline of certified products has increased by more than 75 per cent.

“Our advanced environmental products and services are helping customers increase their energy efficiency and reduce costs and emissions. And it is providing the growth we expected for GE, as we are ahead of our plan to reach $20 billion in annual sales of ecomagination products by 2010,” said GE chairman and chief executive Jeffrey Immelt. “With oil prices and other energy costs surging and with water scarcity concerns spreading, ecomagination makes even more sense for our investors today than it did a year ago.”

I have questions: Is this growth merely the result of GE re-classifying or certifying existing products as “ecomagination”? If so, are they talking true growth or merely a shifting of revenues from one class to another? It’s great the company is going strong in this direction, but I wonder how they’re calculating all this. I haven’t read the whole report closely, so hopefully I’ll get that answer when I do.

In other cleantech news, the Cleantech Venture Network released its first quarter 2006 investment figures for the sector and the impressive growth continues. During the first quarter of 2006 venture capital investments totalled $513 million (U.S.), up about 53 per cent from the year prior and a quarter-over-quarter gain of 2.3 per cent.

There were 67 separate deals done, down from 73 in Q4 2005 but up 37 per cent compared to the year prior. That said, the average deal size jumped to $8.28 million, up 20 per cent from the prior quarter and about 17 per cent from a year ago. The report said cleantech investments, out of all VC investments, remained in fifth place behind biotech, software, medical and telecom, and ahead of semiconductors.

Keith Raab, chief executive and co-founder of the Cleantech Venture Network, said energy-related deals dominated cleantech investments in the quarter. “The $357 million invested in energy accounted for nearly 70 per cent of all cleantech Q1 investments and 48 per cent of the total energy investment made in 2005,” he said.

Cleantech investment accounted for 8.5 per cent of all North American venture capital investment in Q1 compared to 9.1 per cent in the previous quarter and 7.5 per cent in Q3 2005.

A full report of the data will be released at the Cleantech Venture Forum X in London, England, on June 7.

BP has big hopes for solar in China

Bloomberg News has a lengthy piece on BP Plc, the world’s third-largest maker of solar cells, and its prediction that the Asian market will expand by 50 per cent annually within a decade because of surging demand in China, South Korean and Japan. China’s solar market is currently 20 megawatts a year, but the country is targeting growth of about 1,000 megawatts a year by 2020.

Kyoto and Canada: I’m so ashamed

Thank goodness for Quebec and its Liberal government, led by Premier Jean Charest. Despite attempts by the federal Conservatives to back Canada out of Kyoto — even sabotage the international agreement — Charest said today that Quebec is willing to act alone if the federal government reneges on its commitment.

Bravo! Now, wouldn’t it be great if Ontario, B.C. and the other provinces and territories (Alberta likely excluded) refused to accept Harper’s position and, following Quebec’s lead, separately maintained their commitment to meeting Kyoto targets on a regional scale? I think this is a perfect opportunity for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to get back at Harper for his open hostility to the province. Plus, as McGuinty is fond of saying, “It’s just the right thing to do.” While this might not be considered Canada’s official position on the international stage, it would keep Kyoto efforts alive long enough for Harper to take the hint or for his “fragile” minority government to fall.

For those non-Canadians who haven’t been following this issue, the federal government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reportedly working behind the scenes to water down the Kyoto Accord. The Harper government has already said Canada can’t meet the first phase of its Kyoto obligations and is now allegedly trying to replace the agreement with a less strict, voluntary agreement that would give special breaks to energy exporters like Canada. Essentially, Canada is aligning itself with the United States. Ironically, our Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is leading the latest round of Kyoto talks in Bonn, Germany, that have been taking place since May 15 and last until the 26th. Many of her counterparts from Europe are not pleased.

Shameful.

Even more shameful is that the Conservatives, in supposedly keeping with their pledge to come up with a “made in Canada” solution — whatever that means — is trying to deflect attention away from its Kyoto game-playing by touting its efforts to hammer out a national ethanol standard. The feds are reportedly close to announcing that 5 per cent of gasoline/diesel must contain ethanol/biodiesel by 2010. In other words, the Conservatives are merely following through on one of three “environment” related election promises, and one that it copied from the Liberals before they were turfed.

As one spokesperson from the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association said, “It’s better than nothing.” And this would be true. But let’s also put this into perspective: Ontario has set a much more aggressive 5 per cent mandate by 2007 and 10 per cent by 2010. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have similar mandates, and I imagine B.C., Quebec and other provinces have plans in the works. So really, the majority of the country is covered or will be soon by provincial rules.

All the federal standard does is try to harmonize the country by creating a baseline standard, making it easier for the petroleum producers to follow. There’s not a single industry that likes a situation where they’re forced to comply with a patchwork of regulation, so when the writing is on the wall they always push for federal baseline standards. Hopefully, the long overdue and less aggressive federal standards to be introduced won’t water down Ontario’s more aggressive plans.

If you’re a skeptic like me, the feds are arguably acting more in the interests of the oil industry by setting a national standard. Again, not a bad thing, but so far just a tiny token effort by the Harper government to look Kyoto-friendly.

Yes, I agree with Ambrose that Canada needs to be a cleantech leader and focus on developing exportable technologies that can help combat pollution and global warming. But this alone is not an environmental strategy, this is an economic strategy. Investment in and promotion of clean technologies should be part of a big-picture effort that includes targeted mandates, adoption incentives, carbon-trading schemes, and creative tax polices that shift the behaviour of industry, businesses and homeowners.

But in Ottawa these days, it seems nobody can — or wants to — see the big picture.

Kyoto and Canada: I’m so ashamed

Thank goodness for Quebec and its Liberal government, led by Premier Jean Charest. Despite attempts by the federal Conservatives to back Canada out of Kyoto — even sabotage the international agreement — Charest said today that Quebec is willing to act alone if the federal government reneges on its commitment.

Bravo! Now, wouldn’t it be great if Ontario, B.C. and the other provinces and territories (Alberta likely excluded) refused to accept Harper’s position and, following Quebec’s lead, separately maintained their commitment to meeting Kyoto targets on a regional scale? I think this is a perfect opportunity for Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to get back at Harper for his open hostility to the province. Plus, as McGuinty is fond of saying, “It’s just the right thing to do.” While this might not be considered Canada’s official position on the international stage, it would keep Kyoto efforts alive long enough for Harper to take the hint or for his “fragile” minority government to fall.

For those non-Canadians who haven’t been following this issue, the federal government led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper is reportedly working behind the scenes to water down the Kyoto Accord. The Harper government has already said Canada can’t meet the first phase of its Kyoto obligations and is now allegedly trying to replace the agreement with a less strict, voluntary agreement that would give special breaks to energy exporters like Canada. Essentially, Canada is aligning itself with the United States. Ironically, our Environment Minister Rona Ambrose is leading the latest round of Kyoto talks in Bonn, Germany, that have been taking place since May 15 and last until the 26th. Many of her counterparts from Europe are not pleased.

Shameful.

Even more shameful is that the Conservatives, in supposedly keeping with their pledge to come up with a “made in Canada” solution — whatever that means — is trying to deflect attention away from its Kyoto game-playing by touting its efforts to hammer out a national ethanol standard. The feds are reportedly close to announcing that 5 per cent of gasoline/diesel must contain ethanol/biodiesel by 2010. In other words, the Conservatives are merely following through on one of three “environment” related election promises, and one that it copied from the Liberals before they were turfed.

As one spokesperson from the Canadian Renewable Fuels Association said, “It’s better than nothing.” And this would be true. But let’s also put this into perspective: Ontario has set a much more aggressive 5 per cent mandate by 2007 and 10 per cent by 2010. Manitoba and Saskatchewan have similar mandates, and I imagine B.C., Quebec and other provinces have plans in the works. So really, the majority of the country is covered or will be soon by provincial rules.

All the federal standard does is try to harmonize the country by creating a baseline standard, making it easier for the petroleum producers to follow. There’s not a single industry that likes a situation where they’re forced to comply with a patchwork of regulation, so when the writing is on the wall they always push for federal baseline standards. Hopefully, the long overdue and less aggressive federal standards to be introduced won’t water down Ontario’s more aggressive plans.

If you’re a skeptic like me, the feds are arguably acting more in the interests of the oil industry by setting a national standard. Again, not a bad thing, but so far just a tiny token effort by the Harper government to look Kyoto-friendly.

Yes, I agree with Ambrose that Canada needs to be a cleantech leader and focus on developing exportable technologies that can help combat pollution and global warming. But this alone is not an environmental strategy, this is an economic strategy. Investment in and promotion of clean technologies should be part of a big-picture effort that includes targeted mandates, adoption incentives, carbon-trading schemes, and creative tax polices that shift the behaviour of industry, businesses and homeowners.

But in Ottawa these days, it seems nobody can — or wants to — see the big picture.