The Seriousness of Failed Cleantech Commercialisation

Business Green blog “Can anyone defuse the carbon bomb?”  is important whilst scary reading referring to the new report Point of No Return study from Greenpeace and Ecofys, which argues that 14 giant "carbon bomb" fossil fuel projects that are currently in planning have the potential to drive up global emissions 20 per cent by 2020 on their own.

The five points brought up by James Murray are very important and valid points where point 5) The rewards for those who defuse the "carbon bomb" will be massive echos the existence of WWF Climate Solvers. Because we believe and even know that some solutions, entrepreneurs and companies must grow very, very fast for us to have a chance to combat climate change. This is why we must focus on enabling this rapid commercialisation, at early as well as later stages of cleantech business development.

What is also worrying in this context though is that the lack of ambition on climate change is starting to take it's toll also on the cleantech industry where several players that could reap massive rewards are being forced to cave in due to lack of policy and investor confidence. The public private partnership machinery to support solutions is failing to deliver at scale. Policy makers and investors must engage in a dialogue with those who have alternative and transformative solutions across sectors, and not stay stuck in a sector-by-sector I-will-change-as-little-and-slow-as-I-can-dialogue with incumbent industry sectors. Policy makers say business-as-usual (BAU) is not an option, yet what we see is BAU. And investors keep betting our pension funds on good old coal, oil and gas since they expect to get high returns on investments from the BAU way of thinking.   

Global clean energy investments actually fell 11% last year according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. This happens at a time when we know it must at least triple or quadruple very quickly if we are to have a chance to combat global warming. At least if we should listen to the World Economic Forum Green Investment Report.

Some real suffering examples of the failure of cleantech commercialisation:

Hailed A123 systems advanced batteries and complete energy storage for ex for electrified vehicles have gone bankrupt as sufficient market demand has not appeared.

The winner of last year's Intersolar award and an earlier Climate Solver,  has now gone bankrupt. The technology combines solar power generation with the use of solar heat. It is the first concentrating PVT collector where priority is given to generating heat as well as electricity. The intersolar jury believed that the solution’s technical construction generated significantly higher yields than any previous systems. Now they are bankrupt. Liquidity issues made it impossible for the award winning company to pay a supplier, and there was no investor to jump in and save the day.

Unfortunately there are several more examples, and many more to come unless policy makers and investors wake up.

If we do not join forces to support our Climate Solvers so that they can grow rather than shrink, what chance do we have ? We must step up our ambition in order to reap the rewards of those who diffuse the "carbon bomb" which could be massive. And policy makers must understand that a top priority for supporting solution providers is to increase ambition on climate change. This creates markets as well as strong industrial policy support for the new strategic industries that are necessary to create a green economy.

Stefan Henningsson

Senior Adviser Climate Innovation


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Chinese Solutions Offer Great Hope

The first four Chinese Climate Solvers were presented at an award ceremony in Beijing yesterday. These enthusiastic entrepreneurs were recognized for their solutions for more efficient battery charging, industrial cooling, refrigeration and waste-heat power generation.
The unofficial theme for the event turned out to be “opportunities”. As the fundament of the Climate Solver initiative itself, the entrepreneurs as well as invited experts repeatedly pointed to the opportunities offered by climate innovations and entrepreneurship.
   The mere fact that there are over 50 million SME’s in China is an opportunity for innovation and job creation. Mr. CHEN Xin from China Center for Promotion of SME Development said that the Climate Solver program is very meaningful now that low cost/low quality products are no longer competitive. Their focus is now on innovative SME’s and business models.
The challenge of securing financing was one of the important points raised during the discussions. For example, the fact that although solution developers in early phases may lack collateral, they do have IPR which could be used for securing credits. Mr. ZHU Daniel, a venture investor from Tsing Capital seemed to agree, and said "While traditional banks look at a company's history, we look toward their future." In this context it was promising to hear that some banks have seen the opportunity for developing financing products based on the specific needs of SME's, e.g. joint guarantees shared by several companies.
Mr. CHEN Zhengli from China Merchants Bank pointed out that climate innovations were well aligned with their Green Credit Strategy, “Climate Solver companies are just the kind of customers we want to find.” Judging from the interest from both participants and media, there are substantial opportunities for further developing the Climate Solver platform in China.
Mr ZHOU Qing from newly awarded Climate Solver Yunhe Refrigeration Technology, recollected learning about WWF’s conservation work as a child and said, “The Climate Solver award is the best recognition we can get.”
"An incredibly inspiring event overall," according to Magnus Emfel, Manager Climate Innovations at WWF Sweden, responsible for the expansion of Climate Solver in both China and India."If these four innovations are any indication of the potential for Chinese solutions, then I can hardly wait to see them succeed and achieve their global climate mitigation potential!" says Emfel emphatically.

Four Outstanding Chinese Technologies join the ranks of WWF Climate Solver

BEIJING, Dec. 13, 2012 -- WWF today announced the four winners of its first annual Climate Solver China Awards, the result of a year long search for products developed by China’s small and medium-sized enterprises that are the elusive triple threat: innovative, adept at meeting a market need, and help reduce society’s CO2 emissions.

“We’re looking for technologies that have it all,” said LU Lunyan, Director, Climate & Energy Programme, WWF-China. “Being good at the single variable of reducing CO2 emissions isn’t good enough. Our award winners are also very capable at meeting a market need, so there’s the potential for large scale purchasing that would allow them to be out in the real world with enough ubiquity to significantly bring down humanity’s CO2 emission levels. And the reason they’re good at both the business and low carbon fronts is because the underlying technology is so new and different.”

The announcement of the winning products is the culmination of an intensive search and review effort, with final selection of the award winners completed by an expert panel who judged according to five criteria—emissions reduction potential, innovativeness, technology reliability, market potential, and supporting business strategy—to ensure multifaceted winners.

The Climate Solver China Awards mark the first time the awards have also been organized outside the origin country: the Climate Solver (Sweden) initiative started in 2008, and this year’s four Chinese innovations join six Swedish innovations announced in November. India will join as the third organizing country in 2013.

“The purpose of the Climate Solver initiative has always been to inspire the world with opportunities for tackling climate change made possible by innovations developed by climate entrepreneurs,” said Magnus Emfel, Manager of Climate Innovations, WWF-Sweden. “With all these solutions at hand, the question is what’s stopping us from putting them to practice? Together with investors, corporations, and policymakers, we want to enable faster global deployment of technologies for energy efficiency and renewable energy. I’m very pleased, but not surprised, to see a multitude of climate innovations also from China and look forward to the day they become the tried and true in the marketplace.”

The 2012 Climate Solver China Award winners are:

Hydrodynamic Cooling Tower (Nanjing Xingfei Cooling Apparatus Co., Ltd.)

You’ve seen the huge cooling towers that dot China’s landscape marking a power station, chemical plant, or any other business that needs to transfer a large amount of waste heat to the atmosphere. Many of these towers require electric fans to aid in the cooling process, and the electric fans add to power bills, are an added danger for workers, and emit CO2 emissions with their power use. Xingfei’s Hydrodynamic Cooling Tower design is able to take full advantage of all the water already circulating in these massive cooling towers and use it to drive hydrodynamic fans, making electric fans unnecessary in the cooling process.

Thermal-Chemical Absorption Refrigeration System (Wuhan YunheDingyu Refrigeration Science & Technology Co., Ltd.)

In China, refrigeration, from air conditioning to freezing, is a major consumer of electricity and hence emitter of CO2 emissions. Beyond that, the commonly used refrigerants are greenhouse gases much worse than CO2. Yunhe’s Thermal-Chemical Absorption Refrigeration System replaces electricity as the power source with heat from diesel engine exhaust, industrial steam, or even solar energy. Further, it replaces greenhouse gases as the refrigerant with ammonia, and gets rid of electric compressors altogether. You can already find Yunhe technology in the air conditioners, ice makers, and freezers of some fishing boats.

LHVG Safe and Clean Power Generation System (China City Environment Protection Engineering Co., Ltd.)

China has grown into the world’s largest steel producer. And all that steel making produces vast amounts of chemical gases containing vast amounts of heat, which represents not only great wastage of chemical and thermal energy, but also air pollution. CCEPC’s Low Heat Value Gas Safe and Clean Power Generation System can take these otherwise waste gases, combust them to create greater heat, and then drive a gas or steam turbine to produce power for the steelmaker.

Smart Self-Adaptive Storage Battery Charger (Universal Energy Electrical Co., Ltd.)

Many electric cars are a match for their fossil fuel counterparts in terms of comfort and performance. One of the main reasons they aren’t more prevalent is that compared with petrol stations, electric car battery chargers aren’t common and the entire charging process can be slow. Universal Energy’s Smart Self-Adaptive Storage Battery Charger improves charging energy efficiency from a conventional 60%-85% up to 97%, which helps make charging at least twice as fast as with traditional chargers. Further, the charger is only about 1/20 the weight of typical charging solutions with the same power output. Universal Energy’s chargers are currently used by the Chinese military, but with their high-performance characteristics, the company is hopeful they’ll receive strong interest from the private sector.