13 October 2010

Solar growth, competition and consolidation; financial and investment news; and other sustainable business information

Top Stories

"Strong US Solar Industry Growth for First Half of 2010"reliability high.
"The Solar Energy Industries Association ... and GTM Research today released the inaugural U.S. Solar Market Insight™ report with data for the first half of 2010 showing significant growth in the U.S. solar industry despite the continuing struggles of the overall economy. In 2010, the U.S. solar electric market, including both photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) installations, could achieve a major milestone by surpassing one gigawatt of installed capacity in a year for the first time". The report estimates 2010 installations of between 944 MW and 1.13 GW, giving year-on-year growth of 114-156% over 2009. See SEIA site. PDF of the executive summary of the study here.

"Solar M&A on the rise: Latham & Watkins"reliability high.
Marcus Herrmann, M&A at law firm Latham & Watkins says private equity investors can be expected to find good acquisition opportunities in solar and he expects them to buy soon. "It's very likely that we will see M&A activity in this segment within the next two years." Examples of trends and deals. See Reuters.

Companies, Industries, Markets and Supply Chains

"Renewables eyed by big funds: Capital Dynamics"reliability high.
Investment management firm Capital Dynamics thinks "Renewable energy assets across developed economies are starting to attract funds looking for long-term investments in energy generation" says Reuters. "The amount of investment globally has quadrupled in the past five to six years so now we are starting to see it get to a scale where some of the bigger pension funds can really take it seriously," said managing director David Scaysbrook at a recent conference. More about global clean energy investment environment. See Reuters story.

"Silicon Valley’s Solar Innovators Retool to Catch Up to China"reliability high.
Just as California thin-film solar manufacturers "finally begin mass production — Solyndra just flipped the switch on a $733 million factory here last month — they are finding that the economics of the industry have already been transformed, by the Chinese." With government subsidies Chinese solar panel manufacturers have scaled up and cut costs dramatically, changing the playing field for more advanced Silicon Valley technologies. The California firms are struggling to build volume and reduce their own costs of production. Discusses impact on VC attitudes toward solar start-ups. More on solar strategies. From The New York Times.

"ADB: Asia needs $8 billion annual investment in water"reliability high.
The Asian Development Bank says Asia needs around $8 billion a year to improve water security and meet goals of providing drinking water and sanitation, according to this Reuters article. The ADB "planned to maintain its current annual investment on water projects of $2-2.4 billion under a proposed 10-year plan", so much of the required investment will have to come from the private sector, according to a bank official. Reuters article. [So are there $6 billion worth of profitable projects to attract all that private capital?]

"Carbon Trading System Draws Environmental Skeptics"reliability high.
About the problems with the UN's Clean Development Mechanism carbon trading scheme. "five years after its introduction, and despite several changes, the mechanism remains open to abuse, according to many involved in climate change issues. ... If a project does not depend on carbon credits for its existence, then the notional carbon savings are bogus. Yet the credits will nonetheless be sold to a polluting industry which will then pollute more — probably in Europe." Discusses problems many observers see, and efforts by the UN to refine its system. See The New York Times.

"London bike hire scheme on road to be only public transport system in profit"reliability medium.
London's recently implemented bike hire scheme looks like it will be able to cover its operating costs within a couple of years, according to an early financial assessment, and then begin contributing to its £140m implementation costs, according to this post by Frederika Whitehead. "Charlie Lloyd from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) said: 'It is very likely they will make some kind of profit on this, and you have to bear in mind that London Transport makes a loss on every single bus and tube journey. So this is a good value transport investment.'" More at The Guardian blogs.

"A Climate Proposal Beyond Cap and Trade"reliability high.
Given reluctance of U.S. to put a price on carbon, observers suggest more politically palatable government R&D spending might achieve the same result. "'We didn’t tax typewriters to get the computer. We didn’t tax telegraphs to get telephones,' says Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute in Oakland, Calif., ... . 'When you look at the history of technological innovation, you find that state investment is everywhere.' ... Politically, the weakest link in the pro-research argument is that no one knows exactly where the money will come from." Story at The New York Times.

Government and Regulation

"CDC Launches Climate-Ready States and Cities Initiative"reliability high.
The U.S. federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "has awarded $5.25 million to ten state and local health departments to meet the public health challenges of climate change over the next three years. ... CDC is helping state and city health departments address and prepare for the health effects related to climate change. CDC approaches this challenge in the same way it prepares for the possibilities of bioterrorism and pandemic influenza. CDC scientists combine public health investigation methods with novel atmospheric science tools to anticipate how these climate changes affect people and public health." More at CDC site.