Feb. 2018 – 8 Snippets – Clean Energy Finance Trends


200+ Use Cases in the Energy Sector?
Let’s Dissect Fact v. Fiction
  • It’s estimated that over $300M has been invested in companies focused on blockchain uses in the energy sector. More broadly, the cryptocurrency market, related but not the same, is valued at roughly $500B. That is, unless the market price went up or down 20% in the last day. #volatility In this blog, IronOak’s Dr. Chris Clement discusses some real uses cases for blockchain energy innovation, as well as instances where hype may exceed reality. (Sorry, but free energy is not one of the possibilities.)

Mastercard and Off-Grid Solar in Africa:

Big Finance Goes Small to Grow Bigger (?)

  • Off-grid solar firm M-KOPA is a leader in pay-as-you-go (PAYG) solar opportunities in East Africa. Imagine farmers living eight hours from the capital city making daily payments to top up their solar accounts by scanning a QR code from a smartphone. This service is already serving 3 million customers in Africa. But there are over 1 billion people who lack access to electricity. And now Mastercard wants in on the game. The lines are blurring between doing good and growing top line. What was once charity is now high-growth private sector opportunity. Don’t you just love that? Thanks to PV Tech and Tom Kenning for the insight.



The Numbers are In:
Bloomberg’s “Sustainable Energy In America Factbook 2018”
  • If you love data, and we know you do, then grab your fork and knife and dig in. Highlights from Bloomberg’s analysis: Renewable energy accounted for 18% of all U.S. power last year, 120% of the 2016 numbers. Total household energy expenses were just under 4% of all costs, which are near-record lows. (No wonder it’s hard to get consumers to care about energy.)  $333B was invested globally in clean energy in 2017. And the costs for lithium-ion battery packs fell 23% in one year. (Yikes!) To all the 800-pound gorillas, you might want to pay more attention to what’s in that rear view mirror. Learn more from Bloomberg.

Smart Battery Software:

Automated Contracts

  • Just as email replaced fax machines, and Snapchat replaced Facebook for all the youngin’s (?), the argument is that blockchain will replace many people and outdated contracting mechanisms. This article argues that energy storage software can make blockchain even more powerful by creating greater choice regarding when to store and sell power in millisecond time intervals. “This flexibility allows you to exactly match a given customer’s demand profile, and likely extract a higher price for such precise targeting and delivery.”Learn more from Energy Storage News and Younicos here.



Virtual Power Plant + Kangaroos:
50,000 Batteries Acting like One
  • In addition to SpaceX’s record-breaking launch last week, Musk’s Tesla made headlines by announcing a plan — the largest ever (are you surprised?) — for 50,000 batteries + solar installations in public housing across Australia. All at no cost to the customer, it’s meant to help address the utility’s problems with blackouts. The 4-year program is expected to lower homeowner’s power bills by 30% and make them feel, like, uh, way hipper, and just a little closer to their future trip to Mars.Learn more from Fortune.



Lessons from a Pioneer with Perfect Name:

Nancy Pfund, DBL Partners

  • On your next commute, check out the latest podcast interview from “Watt It Takes,” a production of GTM and Powerhouse. Nancy Pfund — founder DBL Partners, aka, “Double Bottom Line” — shares insights about building cleantech careers (hers was non-traditional) and VC investing (wait, isn’t that dead?). Her experience includes raising multi-hundred-million-dollar cleantech VC funds and investing in names like Tesla, SolarCity, Off Grid Electric, PowerLight, NEXTracker, and Advanced Microgrid Solutions. Listen to it here.
VC Investments Up 2x;
Project Finance up 36x
  • 2017 saw the following: $714M of VC investments across 30 deals (up from $365M across 38 deals in 2016). This sounds promising, but note that $400M of that big 2017 number went to Microvast, a Chinese lithium battery maker. The other top four recipients of VC funds were BESS (UK developer), Foresee (second-hand EV battery deployment), AMS (C&I developer), and Primus (flow battery manufacturer).Project finance gains were even more dramatic: $1.2B committed in 2017, with just $33M invested in 2016. Despite these gains, many CEOs tell us they see energy storage as still being “18 months away.” Thanks to Mercom for the data.
The Grid’s Growing Pains:
More Devices, Higher Volume, Micro Transactions

  • Utility Dive nailed this one: The power grid of tomorrow will be full of “armies of smaller resources connected and helping balance supply and demand.” That’s, of course, benevolent armies of greentech ninjas. And so often, I’m asked about why blockchain matters in the energy sector. Here’s a good answer: “Blockchain allows for validation of transactions rapidly, cheaply and publicly, helping reduce data risks and speeding the authentication process.”Nice article, Robert Walton.


[These snippets originally appeared in the weekly newsletter for IronOak Energy Capital.]

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