Stimulus

Global Greentech Stimulus Half Spent, Now What?

When it comes to green stimulus, the world is halfway done — and China and Japan lead in the race, according to a Tuesday report. But the United States is catching up, though not without some hiccups along the way.

Smith Electric Vehicles Revs for Acquisition, IPO

Smith Electric Vehicles U.S., an electric truck and van maker based in Kansas City, Mo. and backed by $32 million in stimulus grants, has become the great green hope for its loss-making parent company, the United Kingdom’s Tanfield Group.

Sonic Signs Up Sears to Use Its RoxioNow Digital Storefront

Sonic Solutions has signed up another retailer to use its RoxioNow streaming video service to deliver Hollywood content to a wide range of consumer electronics devices. Sears has agreed to a licensing deal through which it will offer movies and TV shows for rental or purchase.

iPhone 4 and Sprint EVO 4G, Head-to-Head

The iPhone 4 has been officially outed, its specs shared. Having just purchased the Sprint EVO 4G, however, I am happier about my purchase than before the latest device from Apple was announced. Here’s how the two phones stack up against one another.

DOE Looks to the Web to Speed Up Loan Guarantees

Doling out awards ASAP under the Department of Energy’s Loan Guarantee Program has been an ongoing theme for the agency under the Obama administration. One of the next steps to speed up the process will be bringing more of it online.

What the Feds' Risky Greentech Fund Can Do for Electric Cars

Cheaper, longer-lasting, safer and smaller — those are the kinds of rechargeable batteries that could become available for electric cars if some of the research projects funded under the Department of Energy’s latest round of grants for high-risk, early-stage energy technologies deliver on their moonshot ambitions.

The Largest Cleantech VC: China

When private investment in cleantech fell last year, government stimulus programs more than made up the difference, according to estimates that the…

Apple’s Billions and Billions

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article examining what it refers to as the upcoming “war” between computer chip manufacturers. It’s an…

Quarterly Wrap-up

Cleantech Was a Market Leader in Q4

With the fourth quarter of 2009 now behind us, it appears clear that the field of green technology — renewable energy and energy storage systems, energy efficiency technology, smart grid infrastructure and the underlying information technology to make it all work — is likely to end 2009 with the biggest venture capital haul of any industry sector.

How much would that be? About $4.85 billion, according to figures from Greentech Media — or about 64 percent of the record-setting $7.6 billion raised in 2008. So goes a stellar year in a terrible economy. At long last, though, cleantech appears to be getting its fair share of attention as the best and brightest hope of patching up the teetering structure of a fossil fuel-fired global economy. Global investment in cleantech totaled $145 billion in 2009, down just 6 percent from 2008’s peak of $155 billion, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance — not bad for a year that saw most other industries take nosedives. Still, orders of magnitude more investment are needed to achieve even the modest energy-production and carbon-reduction goals that governments around the world have set.

Amidst a general collapse of private debt and equity financing, government support has played a guiding role in 2009’s greentech successes. About $436 billion in government spending was directed toward renewable energy, energy efficiency and smart grid technologies last year, or some 16 percent of overall stimulus spending, according to HSBC. In the United States, the Department of Energy has directed some $60 billion in stimulus grants and incentives toward these areas this year, including fourth-quarter jolts of $4 billion for smart grid projects at both commercial and demonstration stage and $151 million for its new open-sky research fund, ARPA-E. Elsewhere, funding entities such as the European Investment Bank and BNDES of Brazil have also taken up the slack, and China is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to boost renewable energy and smart grid development.

But DOE’s stimulus funds will run out eventually, leaving open the question of what funding sources will take its place. And the end of 2009 also saw several high-profile policy disappointments, including Congress’s decision to put off work on climate and energy legislation and the failure to deliver binding rules on cutting greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations’ summit in Copenhagen. The industry and investors had wanted clear and enforceable regulation to guide their decisions, both in the United States and around the world, and didn’t get them.

Perhaps these setbacks dampened investors’ animal spirits over the holiday season. Greentech venture capital investment totaled $817 million, down from $1.9 billion in the third quarter of the year, according to Greentech Media (Cleantech Group put third-quarter investment at $1.4 billion). Investors also pulled back on their bets a bit, with only one $100-million-plus round — that of smart-grid darling Silver Spring Networks — and less money spread across more deals.

While clean energy production continued to garner the largest share of venture capital investment, saving energy has emerged as a focus for investors as well. Solar power kept its No. 1 slot for VC investment in 2009, though its share of the overall pie shrank from about 40 percent in 2008 to about 21 percent, or $1.2 billion, according to Cleantech Group and Deloitte. But transportation and batteries, energy efficiency, biofuels, smart grid, energy storage and water management also saw respectable showings.

In the public markets, companies with a focus on saving energy — whether through making its use more efficient or storing it — picked up steam. The WilderHill New Energy Global Innovation Index of 86 clean technology stocks showed energy efficiency stocks rising 8.6 percent and power storage shares rising a whopping 25.4 percent in the fourth quarter, while solar stocks fell 8.1 percent and wind stocks dropped 4.4 percent in the same time period.

Of course, the cleantech sector also produced the hottest IPOs of 2009: the $380 million debut of lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems in the United States, and that of China Longyuan Electric Power Group, a China-based wind power producer, which raised $2.2 billion in its fourth-quarter public offering. Those, in turn, have opened hopes for more to come. Solar module encapsulant maker STR Holdings raised $123 million in a late fourth-quarter public offering, and thin-film solar module maker Solyndra and biocatalyst developer Codexis filed much-anticipated IPO papers in December, setting the stage for a revival of the moribund public markets as a funder of green companies.

At the same time, corporate giants are acquiring their way into the greentech revolution, and the deals are getting larger. The $418 million acquisition of solar thermal power company Solel by German giant Siemens in the fourth quarter set a good example, as did the $200 million bid for solar project developer-financer SunEdison by China’s MEMC. Of course, the biggest corporate acquisition will be the $4.6-billion takeover of Sanyo by fellow Japanese giant Panasonic, combining the two companies’ strengths in batteries, solar cells and a host of consumer electronics and appliances.

Another big acquisition was the $539 million purchase of solar panel manufacturing line maker Apollo Precision by RBI Holdings, a Hong Kong toy company — a move underscoring China’s growing might in clean technologies. Last year’s greentech investment figures would have been a lot worse without Asia’s big push into renewable energy, particularly wind energy in China, according to the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. Another report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported that Asian greentech investment, at $37.3 billion, outstripped the $32 billion invested in North and South America for the first time in 2009, although Europe, Africa and the Middle East led the pack with $42 billion invested.

Found: Missing Broadband Stimulus Funds!

The two federal agencies responsible for allocating $7.2 billion in broadband stimulus spending today released information about the next round of funding, which total $4.6 million. They also revealed how they would handle the missing $2.3 billion from the last round of grants.

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Best Parts of the New Smart Grid Stimulus Awards: Smart grid analyst Jesse Berst sees three high points in the latest round…

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Feds Open Another Spigot for Clean Energy: The Treasury Department has announced that it’s allocating $2.2 billion in bonds to support the…

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Climate Change and Cali Wildfires: “To the average person a 1-degree rise in average spring and summer temperatures may not seem like…

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Cutting Carbon at $365 per Ton (Ouch!): University of California-Davis professor Christopher Knittel calculated how much we’re spending for each ton of…

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Cash for Clunkers Winners: People have used cash for clunkers vouchers to buy fuel-sipping cars, led by the Ford Focus and followed…

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New Fight Over Trees as Offsets: Energy-guzzling companies hope to get carbon credits and avoid obligations to make costlier emission cuts by…

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Lincvolt Bows Out of X Prize Competition: Neil Young’s biodiesel/gasoline/hydroxy gas-powered Lincvolt has withdrawn from the race to focus on developing technology…

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BP Drops Jatropha: BP has “given up on jatropha, the shrub once touted as the great hope for biofuels, and walked away…

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Wal-Mart Plans Environmental Reporting, Labels: Wal-Mart is requiring manufacturers to report the full environmental costs of their products, and plans to distill…

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DOE Details More Funding Opps: The Department of Energy today detailed some of how more than $300 million in investments funded by…

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Sparks Fly at Spark EV: The founder of Spark EV, who made headlines last year when he was arrested for not delivering…

Oracle Rumbles Into Smart Grid Software Market

Companies building smart meters and the network infrastructure that allows them to communicate back to electric utilities generate most of the buzz…

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Stimulus Funds Blow In for Mass. Turbine Testing: Government officials say Massachusetts will receive $25 million in federal stimulus money for testing…

Sequel Pro 0.95 Released

Back in Feburary I took a look at the open-source database tool Sequel Pro and compared it against the commercial tool, Querious.…

Thanks to TheAppleBlog Sponsors!

We’d like to say thanks to this month’s sponsor of TheAppleBlog: WunderRadio: Wunder Radio provides access to thousands of streaming Internet radio…

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Toshiba Delays Fuel Cell Launch: Toshiba said today it will not begin selling its first fuel cell product — a battery charger…

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No More Mashed Potatoes: Top Gear America’s car fanatics are fed up with gas sippers that look like “lumps of cold mashed…

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Cali Budget Clears State Senate: The budget plan approved today in the California legislature (after a three-month impasse) includes a provision that…

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Stimulus Sweepstakes: — The stimulus package may revive the fortunes of OptiSolar, Abengoa and other renewable energy companies stalled by the financial…

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Cellulosic Ethanol Ready for Prime Time (Really): Cellulosic ethanol has been “five years from commercialization” for so long that even ethanol company…

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Let’s Make a Deal: Spending on clean energy, energy efficiency and public transit in the latest stimulus bill is exactly halfway between…

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And Then There Was One: Toyota, the world’s largest automaker, shut down all but one of its assembly lines for vehicles and…

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Ausra Scales Back Solar Plans: Solar startup Ausra has abandoned plans to build massive solar-thermal power plants in favor of smaller, cheaper…

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Biting Mad About Bus Emissions: A woman in New York City bit a driver’s arm (through three layers of clothing) because she…

Wii Fit on Track to Outsell GTA IV This Year

The market for video games is changing profoundly, and a comparison of two prominent titles’ recent sales figures shows just how much: Wii Fit, a game largely marketed to women, is outpacing the latest installment of one of the industry’s biggest franchises, Grand Theft Auto.

Why Digg Should Buy StumbleUpon

Speculation has surfaced recently that StumbleUpon, a social media utility that was acquired by eBay in April 2007 for around $75 million, was back on the market. If true, I think eBay should sell it to Digg in exchange for equity in the combined entity. Before you call me crazy, hear me out. Continue Reading.