Costly cleantech scaring away investors but corporates picking up the slack, says investor
EXCLUSIVE There is a strong need for investment in the "enabling clean technologies" if we are to achieve a low carbon economy, says Generation Investment Management partner Colin Le Duc.
According to Le Duc, many cleantech venture capitalists have movedaway from funding what he refers to as “the technology valley of death of cleantech”.
Le Duc says that currently businesses and governments are filling this investment gap. “A lot of people that have stepped into that space are actually corporate R&D departments and corporate venturing groups – and they have basically picked up the technologies that venture capitalists won’t fund anymore because the time to market is too long and the capital required is too high”.
However, Le Duc says that it’s Government funding that has spurred the cleantech industry over the years. “If you look at the whole cleantech landscape, all of the fundamental technologies have historically come out of defence R&D – so all of these technologies are military spend.
“If you look at hybrid vehicles for example they were initially developed to be quiet behind enemy lines, solar technology was originally developed for the space programme and the internet was initially part of the Department of Defense,” he adds.
Le Duc says that although cheap solar panels and LEDs are available today, there is still a need for breakthrough next generation technology R&D investment “because many of the enabling technologies are not there yet – notably energy storage”. “It’s just too expensive. So even though solar panels are cheap, the batteries aren’t, and you can’t have a distributed energy revolution without proper energy storage,” he says.
Highlighting this issue in January, United Nations climate chief Christina Figueres urged global financial institutions to triple their investments in clean energy technology. She said $1trillion (£600bn) per year is needed to help prevent the two degree threshold.
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