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Clean tech investment grows as local firms taste success

Tuesday, 10 January 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Investments in clean tech companies grew 13% to $8.99 billion in 2011, according to the Cleantech Group, with Australian companies starting to make their mark on the global market.


The Cleantech Group, founded in 2002 by Nick Parker and Keith Raab, is a US-based research company that supports the development and marketability of clean technologies.


According to the company, mergers and acquisitions for clean tech companies reached record highs in 2011, with 391 deals and a dollar volume of $41.2 billion, up 153% from 2010.


“We believe 2012 will be an all-time record year for global clean tech investments,” Cleantech Group chief executive Sheeraz Haji told SustainableBusiness.com.


While the total dollars invested in clean tech grew, the number of deals declined. In 2011, the number of deals was down 7% from 2010 as investors became more risk-averse.


Of the 713 deals, 438 (61%) were Series B or later rounds, accounting for 85% ($7.64 billion) of all the money invested during the year.


North America accounted for 76% of the total amount invested (up 30% to $6.81 billion), while Europe and Israel accounted for 14% ($1.3 billion) and the Asia Pacific accounted for 10%.


But that’s not to say Australian companies aren’t performing well. In 2011, two local companies were ranked among the world’s top 100 clean tech companies for the first time ever.


The Global Cleantech 100, a list produced annually by the Cleantech Group, included Australian companies Windlab Systems and Barefoot Power.


Windlab uses its own software to specialise in wind farm “prospecting tools”, allowing it to monitor and choose the best sites.


It is now an emerging wind farm developer, with a pipeline of projects in Australasia, North America and South Africa.


Barefoot Power provides solar phone charging, solar lighting products and business development services to people in developing countries.


The solar devices are designed to replace the use of kerosene, which is both costly and harmful. Barefoot seeks to build grids from the ground up, rather than starting at a centralised power station.


Barefoot’s Stewart Craine says most of the interest in the company comes from overseas, suggesting local investors are yet to consider clean technology as an attractive industry.


“We’ve… achieved our basic goal of connecting more than a million people with their first watt of electricity by 2010, and will aim for helping 10 million people by 2015,” Craine says.


“Sadly, Barefoot is becoming less and less Australian-owned, with 95% of our capital being raised overseas, where we enjoy a strong profile.”


“[We] cannot seem to generate much coverage of these fairly impressive achievements, or local capital from local investors.”