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Clean-tech round up: March

March was a month of ups and downs for sustainability. Major school strikes brought climate action to forefront of the press and political debate. The depressing news that 33 global banks have funnelled $1.9 trillion into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement was hardly mitigated by Shell’s announcement of its first emissions reduction target of only 2-3%. A good month for renewables saw wind energy account for 35% of the UK’s electricity generation the week of the 8th to the 14th.

Clean-tech in its broadest definition is continuing an upwards trajectory, particularly in the areas of energy and mobility. Below are some of March’s highlights.

Greener banks = more clean-tech investment

This month saw the launch of the Green Bank Design Summit on March 18th. Some 24 countries from the global south came together with leading financial institutions in the global north to discuss the design and launch of new, green investment banks (GIBs). Attendees included HSBC, Macquarie, and the Asian Development Bank. In November 2018 Green Bank Network members mobilised $41bn for green infrastructure projects, indicating the summit will spell good news for clean-tech.

Volkswagen & Northvolt join forces

Facing mounting criticism around the sustainability of electric battery production Volkswagen and Northvolt – the Swedish sustainable battery manufacturer have joined forces to form the European Battery Union – a pan-European research and industry body that will begin operating next year. Whatever you think of the sustainability credentials and viability of electric vehicles, with European EV sales up 67% YoY in January, this can only be a step in the right direction.

SolarCity co-founders refocus their efforts on a new continent

Peter and Lyndon Rive, the co-founders of SolarCity that departed shortly after the Tesla acquisition, have joined Silicon Valley solar start-up ZOLA Electric in Africa in an apparent attempt to repeat their success in North America. ZOLA, having raised over $100m in funding, is committed to the issue of energy accessibility, providing low cost solar and batteries to those living off the grid in the region. The Solar-as-a-Service company was founded in 2012 and currently serves over 50,000 homes a month.

Notable Investments:

  • $41m (Goldwind) in Series D for Oxford PV, producer of thin-film solar cells.
  • $23m (Energize Ventures) in Series B for Jupiter Intelligence, developer of climate-driven analysis for resiliency and disaster planning.
  • $600m (SK China, SK Hynix) in Series B for China-based Horizon Robotics, provider of low-power AI solutions for everything from autonomous vehicles to retail.
  • $20m (EDF, Next47) in Series C for Ubitricity, providers of charging infrastructure for EVs.
  • $10m (Softbank) in initial funding for Exeger in Sweden, solar cell development.
  • Finally, Baseload Capital has raised $12.5m this month (Breakthrough Energy Ventures) to invest in geothermal energy conversion technology.

As we move into April, where major scheduled climate protests are set to yet again raise the profile of the environmental crisis internationally, we should look forward to seeing yet more positive news in the space.