Blog Post

Cleantech VC funding drops by a quarter in Q2

Not a bigger shocker from the Cleantech Group this morning: the amount of venture capital funding that went into cleantech startups worldwide in the second quarter of 2012 dropped by 25 percent, in terms of total dollars spent, from the prior year second quarter. The total for cleantech funding in the second quarter of this year totaled $1.61 billion, down from $2.15 billion in the second quarter of 2011.

The trend continues for venture capitalists in particular moving away from early stage cleantech companies. Of the $1.61 billion for the quarter, 90 percent, or $1.59 billion, went into Series B or later rounds. These are the companies that have shown some traction, and are continuing to need funds to scale up. For example, this morning EcoMotors announced that it had raised a Series C of $32.5 million from existing and new investors. Companies that drew large funding rounds in the second quarter included electric car company Fisker Automotive, smart window maker Soldigm, solar financing company SunRun, thin film solar startup Nanosolar, solar inverter firm SolarBridge, and electric car charging firm Coulomb Technologies.

While a significant amount of the generalist venture capitalists have cooled on cleantech, the Cleantech Group noted that some of the firms that have made really large bets on the sector continue to open their wallets. Those firms include Khosla Ventures, NEA, and Kleiner Perkins. Just last week Braemar Energy Ventures closed its $300 million fund for energy technologies, Inerjys is a new fund that is looking to raise a billion dollars for energy, and Silver Lake Kraftwerk recently closed on $350 million for its fund, according to Dow Jones VentureWire.

Solar continued to draw the most funding from venture firms in Q2, followed by transportation and energy efficiency. Electric car maker Fisker Automotive took in a big chunk of the transportation funding ($129 million).

There were nine cleantech IPOs for the quarter (raising a total of $1.79 billion), and all of those were in China. At the same time, three cleantech IPOs in the U.S. were pulled in the quarter.

The results aren’t surprising, but what is concerning is the lack of funding for early stage energy companies. While some government funding can help with that — like from ARPA-E — and corporations, like GE, can make some of these investments, too, it’s unclear where the funding for these needed early stage companies will come from.