InTouch : Chasing clean billions

Whether it’s generating power from cow poo, creating low-cost bio-ethanol from industrial waste, or designing energy management software, clean technology is not just about being nice to the planet, it also has the potential to earn – big time. And fleet-footed New Zealand entrepreneurs can and should get their share of the lucrative and rapidly moving clean-tech market.
That was the gist of presentations to the ‘Clean Billions’ breakfast symposium held in Auckland mid August as curtain raiser to the 4th Australia and New Zealand Business and Climate Change Conference. On the menu were people like David Williams – Welshman who chairs major renewable energy investor Eco2, and David Milroy – CEO of Hong Kong-based Pure Power Global, whose network of renewable energy businesses now includes investment in Kiwi company Aquaflow, which is pioneering technology to create clean biofuel using sludge pond algae.
As companies like Aquaflow and Lanzatech (the bio-ethanol from waste example above) demonstrate, we’re not short of starter kits for clean-tech success. The country can boast bunch of companies already making what local entrepreneur Stephen Tindall describes as “a paradigm jump” into the world’s more carbon-conscious and energy efficient business environment. But, although Tindall personally provides angel-investment help to Kiwi-born clean enterprise, finding the hard cash to turn great ideas into big business can be struggle in country that’s bit short on private-equity funds.
As LanzaTech’s founder Sean Simpson put it, New Zealand is “wet dream” when it comes to clean tech. “We have wind, waves tides, geothermal – there’s not resource we don’t have that we can convert. We’ve also got ideas. What we don’t have is more risk capital.”
Such problems aside, what most speakers emphasised was the scale of the opportunity available as the world shifts to more carbon-constrained economy. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, wind, solar and biofuel companies received record US$148 billion in new funding last year and overall investment in clean-energy and energy-efficiency industries shot up 60 percent from 2006.
Investment community speakers noted the ROI on clean tech is also outstripping more traditional investment. As David Clarke, director of Cranleigh Merchant Bankers, told symposium delegates, “Clean tech is no longer the ugly duckling of the world economy – it has grown into swan.”

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