A Look Forward: Major Companies Become Clean Technology Investors

- September 19th, 2015

The clean tech investing sector may have fallen into a slump, but with Google, Apple and Tesla Motors announcing high-visibility clean tech products and initiatives, the sector may ultimately see a revival.

This article first appeared on July 7, 2015 on Cleantech Investing News. 
Cleantech investing was once lauded as a sector for the future, presenting the perfect marriage of efficiency and environmentalism. However, after several years of overcapitalization and slow innovation, the market entered a serious slump. 
Looking forward, the main cleantech trend of 2015 is the sector’s increasing rehabilitation as a site of viable investment. With big-name companies like Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL), Apple (NASDAQ:APPL) and Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA) becoming clean technology investors through high-visibility cleantech products and initiatives, the sector may finally be finally starting to live up to its initial hype.

Tech giants become clean technology investors

In June, Google announced its decision to convert a coal-fired power plant in Jackson County, Alabama into a data center powered by renewable energy. The news cemented the company’s status as a visible supporter of cleantech — David Pomerantz, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace, is quoted in a Guardian article on the subject as stating, “[i]t’s very important symbolism to take an old coal plant that is a relic of the old energy system and convert it into a data center that will be powered by renewable energy.”
According to Greenpeace, 46 percent of the company’s data centers are powered with renewable energy, including sites in Iowa and Oklahoma. Apple’s stats are even more impressive — 100 percent of the company’s data facilities are powered with renewable energy, and it has partnered with First Solar (NASDAQ:FSLR) to create a 2900-acre facility that generates 130 megawatts of clean energy. Both companies’ efforts illustrate tech giants’ renewed efforts to embrace and promote cleantech investing.

Experts forecast the cleantech market will reach US$350 billion in 2020.

 
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Tesla drives cleantech forward…

American automotive and energy storage company Tesla Motors is also doing its part to make cleantech investing sexy again. The release of its new “Ludicrous mode” rapid-acceleration feature even prompted one Bloomberg View columnist to conclude that “gasoline-powered cars are toast. They are over, finito, kaput, the walking dead who have not yet realized they are goners.” This excitement about the future of clean alternatives bodes well for the cleantech sector as a whole.

…while Tesla investors continue to front capital for cleantech startups

Forbes recently reported that two early backers of Tesla have closed on a $400-million fund to invest in startups that have environmental or socially beneficial components. According to a press release from DBL Partners, “this fund aspires to embrace a ‘no sacrifices’ approach, infusing investments with positive social, environmental or regional economic impact without compromising financial returns.”


With past successes including Tesla, solar installer SolarCity (NASDAQ:SCTY) and energy data company eMeter (acquired by Siemens (OTCMKTS:SIEGY)), clean technology investors Nancy Pfund and Ira Ehrenpreis have a proven track record in this sector. The creation of this venture fund points towards an optimistic future for cleantech startups seeking to provide the innovation the sector desperately requires.
 

Securities Disclosure: I, Morag McGreevey, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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