Thursday, 7 January 2010

Outlay on green tech set to grow

By David Gelles in San Francisco
Published: January 7 2010 02:52
Investment in green technology largely defied the recession last year as governments, companies and venture capitalists poured money into one of the few areas that seems poised for strong growth.
More than $5.6bn was invested in clean technology through 557 deals across North America, Europe, China and India, according to a report by the Cleantech Group and Deloitte. That is down from 2008’s record crop of investments but about level with 2007, the second-strongest year to date for the sector.
The preliminary total is expected to increase by 5-10 per cent once investors fully announce their activity, which would make 2009 a record year for numbers of cleantech deals, and about equal with 2007 for the total amount invested.
“Record levels of activity from investors, governments and corporations in 2009 demonstrated that the market for clean technologies continues to strengthen regardless of any non-binding global climate-change agreement,” said Nicholas Parker, chairman of the Cleantech Group.
“In parallel to trying to reach carbon agreements, governments spent the year earmarking hundreds of billions of dollars for clean technology in pursuit of economic growth,” he added.
“And in the private sector about a quarter of all global venture investment capital was invested in cleantech in 2009, more than software, biotech or any other category.”
North America’s share of clean technology investments was down from 72 per cent in 2008 to 62 per cent in 2009, a four-year low, while the share for Europe and Israel was up from 22 per cent in 2008 to 29 per cent, a five-year high.
“Cleantech is becoming an increasingly global phenomena,” said Dallas Kachan, managing director of Cleantech Group.
This was highlighted by the distribution of initial public offerings in the cleantech sector. Of the $4.7bn raised through 32 cleantech IPOs, 72 per cent was raised in Asia, while its average over the three years before that was less than 10 per cent.
At the same time investors began focusing on different types of deals. Investment in solar projects was down 64 per cent, while investment in efficiency projects was up 39 per cent.
Mr Kachan said 2010 should be another strong year for cleantech investments, with more IPOs and a further shifting of priorities: “Energy efficiency will in fact eclipse solar”.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010.

Oil rig-style "offshore communities" to maintain windfarms

Difficulties accessing and maintaining windfarms located 150km offshore are expected to lead to onsite accommodation for maintenance workers.
From Tom Young for BusinessGreen, part of the Guardian Environment Network, Wednesday 6 January 2010 11.05 GMT

The difficulties in accessing and maintaining offshore wind farms around the UK means that "offshore communities" will have to live and work near the turbines on accommodation facilities similar to oil rigs.
That is the view of experts at the Carbon Trust who have identified accessing turbines in high seas as one of the main barriers to the successful development of the government's £100bn offshore wind strategy.
The improvement of maintenance support for offshore wind farms is one of the main focus areas for a £30m acceleration programme which is being undertaken by the Carbon Trust and is designed to support the rollout of the next phase of so-called phase three offshore wind farm projects.
Access to offshore wind farms is currently gained by boat or helicopter, both of which are problematic in the high wind conditions that are most likely to cause a turbine to malfunction.
The challenge of maintaining offshore wind turbines will become more problematic for larger round three wind farms, which are due to be announced on Friday and are expected to be located up to 150km offshore.
Experts have warned that access to some of the sites will prove so difficult that a turbine breaking down during the winter may have to wait months before an improvement in the weather allows it to be repaired, raising the prospect of maintenance workers being located near the wind farm to increase the speed with which turbines can be repaired.
One Danish wind farm already has an offshore community living next to it and the Carbon Trust predicts similar facilities will be built in UK waters.
"Turbine engineers are finding even on near-shore projects that they can't work after three hours on a boat in high seas," said Benj Sykes, senior technology acceleration manager at the Carbon Trust. "This is a very real problem, and I think we can expect to see offshore communities around the furthest farms."
Andrew Garrad, chief executive of Garrad Hassan, the world's largest wind energy consultancy, said last year that he expected workers to live inside giant offshore wind turbines in the future, in a similar way to lighthouse keepers.

Top British firms drag their feet to reduce carbon footprints

• 24 firms account for 87% of emissions by FTSE 100 companies• 77% of FTSE firms will aim to cut pollution by 2.5% a year

David Adam, Thursday 7 January 2010
Greenhouse gas targets set by many of Britain's largest companies are too weak to meet UK commitments on climate change, a new analysis shows.
A report from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) says a lack of ambition from companies in the energy, materials and utilities sector threatens government plans to cut emissions by 2020.
The CDP report found that 77% of FTSE 100 companies said they have a target to reduce emissions, with an average annual reduction rate of 2.5%. That compares well with the 2.4% annual reductions on overall emissions that Britain needs to make to achieve a legally binding target of 34%-42% reductions by 2020, relative to 1990 levels.
However, the average annual emissions reductions planned by the firms in the energy, utilities and materials sectors total 1.2%. There are only 24 of these companies in the FTSE 100, but they account for 87% of all FTSE 100 reported emissions.
Joanna Lee, CDP's director of communications and corporate partnerships, said: "Across the board, companies are doing pretty well. But what's most striking is that if you look at the three most heavily polluting sectors, they are lagging significantly behind. If we are going to deliver on climate change targets these companies need to take more aggressive action."
The report, published today, says there is a "carbon chasm" between what is planned by the firms and what is required.
It says: "The targets set by the most carbon intensive sectors, responsible for the majority of FTSE 100 emissions, are not sufficiently ambitious and will not deliver reductions required by the UK climate change act."
It adds: "Clearly, UK regulation is sending strong signals to companies of the necessity to manage carbon, but as many of these companies operate globally, we also need a strong global framework to create the right incentives to set sufficiently strong targets."
The report is based on voluntary targets set by firms during 2009, before the climate conference in Copenhagen in December failed to establish a new global treaty. Analysts say the lack of such a treaty could make companies more reluctant to take on more rigorous targets.
"These carbon intensive sectors will need to take on more aggresive targets if they are to deliver in line with government commitments," the report says.
The CDP analysis showed that almost a third of company targets were based on reductions in carbon intensity, rather than absolute cuts in greenhouse gas pollution. Cuts in carbon intensity allow firms to increase overall emissions, while appearing to have gone green, the report points out.
"Companies should set company-wide targets for the reduction of their absolute level of emissions," it says. "Climate change can only be mitigated by a reduction in absolute emissions... therefore companies setting intensity targets should complement these with absolute targets."

Namibia lobbies for 'climate change' money

An old man gently touches the trunk of the huge quiver tree with a worried look on his wrinkled face, as he points at several dead branches lying on Namibia's rugged terrain.

By Brigitte Weidlich, in Windhoek for AFP Published: 11:36AM GMT 06 Jan 2010
"When I was a boy, my grandfather made my first quiver from a branch of this old tree about seventy years ago, but I fear the tree is dying - too many dead branches. Things changed over the past few years, and these trees just die," he said.
Aaron Kairabeb works on a farm 200 kilometres (125 miles) south-east of Namibia's capital, Windhoek, where tourists go on scenic hikes and also view a cluster of the giant aloe trees that can live for more than 300 years.

They grow in arid regions of Namibia and South Africa and are well adapted to their environment through water-storing succulent leaves and shallow root systems. The Bushman or San people used to make quivers for their bows from the trees' dead branches.
But over the past few years Kairabeb, who grew up in the area, noticed that large quiver trees - protected in Namibia and by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) - were drying out and toppling over.
Scientists said that this is most likely caused by drought.
The quiver tree has been placed on the red-listed of threatened species in a report released by the Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) during last month's climate summit in Copenhagen.
The report red-listed 10 animal and plant species, including the beluga whale, emperor penguin and the quiver tree.
"The quiver tree is noted for its drought tolerance and longevity, but it may be operating at the edge of its physiological tolerance," said the report's co-author, Wendy Foden of IUCN. Deaths have been reported since 2001 in Namibia and South Africa.
The Namibian prime minister, Nahas Angula, told reporters on his return from Denmark that "Copenhagen was disappointing and world leaders failed monumentally to reach a binding agreement".
During the summit Angula lobbied for Namibia's recovery plan after two devastating floods hit northern regions in 2008 and 2009, while other areas suffered severe drought.
"Namibia requires 1.7 billion Namibian dollars (£137.3 million) for damages and losses suffered in these floods and another 3.8 billion Namibian dollars for longer term needs such as constructing more disaster resilient housing and infrastructure."
The Namibian government is planning a conference with potential donors during 2010 to raise the funds.
A government report in 2008 found that temperatures have risen 1.2 degrees C (about two degrees F) in Namibia over the last century, making it the driest country south of the Sahara. And the increases are expected to continue.
The former German colony has a population of some two million, with about 70 per cent in rural areas dependent on subsistence agriculture.