Mixed Greens: Australia's cleantech lag | RenewEconomy

Mixed Greens: Australia’s cleantech lag

Australia ranks 16th on global innovation index; CFC sales, revenue jump on EU success; Angel investors heart cleantech; & Vic wind policy claims first victim.


A new report has warned that Australia is lagging behind the rest of the world on clean technology innovation, thus highlighting the “critical” need for consistent carbon policy and the establishment of a CEFC to encourage strong private sector investment in cleantech. The report, jointly released on Monday by the WWF and the Cleantech Group, explores the levels of innovation in entrepreneurial start-up companies in 38 countries around the globe. Australia is ranked just 16th in the world due to a lack of private investment.

Denmark – with its ambitious target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels, as well as feed-in tariffs – tops the Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2012, the research for which was conducted prior to the passing of Australia’s carbon legislation and the establishment the 80 per cent by 2050 emissions reduction target. Israel comes in at a close second, followed by Sweden, Finland, the US and Germany.

The report – “Coming Clean: The Global Cleantech Innovation Index 2012” – attributes America’s high success rate in clean-tech start-ups and commercialisations to a corporate culture of financial risk taking, a high public R&D budget ($US2 billion-plus in 2009), the greatest overall number of investors, and the most venture capital, private equity and M&A deals in cleantech.

“The Global Cleantech Innovation Index suggests that the two biggest barriers to Australia improving its commercialisation of clean technology are the lack of ambitious and consistent government policy settingsand lack of a strong financing culture,” said WWF-Australia’s climate change national manager Kellie Caught.  Caught said this highlighted the importance of the carbon price and the setting of an emissions target, and warned that if these were repealed Australia “would risk missing out on the economic and environmental benefits from a growing global industry. “The establishment of a Clean Energy Finance Corporation will also be critical,” she said. The report also found that Australia had so far failed to capitalise on its government spending – which rated relatively high on the global scale.

Ceramic’s EU boost as revenue, sales jump

Dual-listed stationary energy company Ceramic Fuel Cells has chalked up a three-fold increase in revenue in the December half, and a five-fold jump in announced sales on the back of increased European interest and boosted by favourable policy changes in the region. The Australia-based company announced Monday that revenue for the period jumped to $A3.3 million, from $A900,000 in the previous corresponding period, while recording sales of 67 units. Cumulative orders doubled from July to December 2011 – to a total of 614 units.

The company, which is listed on both the ASX and the AIM in London, has been faring particularly well in Europe, where orders for 100 or more of its highly energy efficient gas-to-electricity BlueGen units were received from distributors in Germany and The Netherlands, and from E.ON UK. Ceramic says BlueGen distributors were appointed in key markets of Germany and The Netherlands, while local installation and service partners were trained in Europe, the UK and Australia.

“The German Parliament has proposed an increased feed-in tariff for products like ours, and German states have announced market introduction programs,” said ceramic managing director Brendan Dow, while also pointing to the UK government’s increase in the feed-in tariff for micro power and heating products, which includes Ceramic’s BlueGen product, announced earlier this month. “There is no doubt that governments the world over are seeing the benefits of distributed generation of electricity, particularly technologies like ours which significantly reduce carbon emissions,” said Dow.

Ceramic says it will continue to invest in product development, and to scale up for future growth – a placement and a rights issue during the half year raised $A16.4 million. At time of publication the company’s ASX share price was up 4.76 per cent, at $0.110. The company’s net loss widened to $12.5 million from $8.4 million, as its spend on R&D increased to $10.8 million from $6.9 million.

Cleantech Angels

Australia’s cleantech start-ups and hopefuls can look forward to some much-needed financial support from the Angel investment community this year, with a survey pinpointing cleantech as one of a preferred sectors for investment in 2012 among the Angel investment community. The survey – the full results of which are set to be released at next week’s National Angel Conference in Melbourne – has revealed that its participants invested $1.23 million in clean technology, compared to $470,000 in web-based software and $340,000 in biotechnology; the same three sectors that were nominated by participants as the most popular industries for new investments in 2012, said Tim Bridges, associate director of Bentleys, who conducted the survey on behalf of the Australian Association of Angel Investors (AAAI).

Bridges said that participants in the survey said they planned to allocate on average $278,571 of capital to use in Angel investment, up $40,714 on planned individual investment in 2011. And he said that this year they we were able to collate data on investment exits for the calendar year – a first for the annual survey. “Data to hand shows 85.7 per cent of investments had positive returns, with 25 per cent returning between six and ten times the initial investment.”

Ruth Drinkwater, CEO of AAAI, said the survey was important, in that it provided a snapshot of the Angel community’s behaviours, including what drives investment choices and the level of financial support and counsel to businesses. “2011 results indicate, for example, that Angels are targeting their investments towards the early growth phases of the business cycle, with 25.5 per cent of last year’s investments made at the seed stage, 35.3 per cent at the start-up stage and 27.5 per cent at the development stage,” Drinkwater said.  “In addition to financial investment, Angels contribute their time and expertise to their investments, with the average Angel spending 50 hours per month on activities like mentoring, attending pitching sessions and post investment management.”

New policy deals first blow to Vic wind

A 14MW wind farm at Devon North, near Yarram in Victoria’s Gippsland region, has become the first to fall victim to the state’s new wind energy planning laws. The local newspaper, the Gippsland Times, reports that an application by Synergy Wind – a German-based developer – to extend the permit until March has been rejected. The wind farm received development approval in December 2007, after overturning the council’s initial veto, and had been due to start construction last December. The Gippsland Times says 20 residents within 2km of the wind turbines had objected under the original application, a situation that would be sufficient to prevent its development under updated legislation introduced by the conservative government.

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