There’s been a lot of noise about how the venture capital industry has gone green. In the most recent quarter, ‘cleantech’ garnered the largest amount of venture capital deployed in the US – nearly $1bn in 50 deals.
But behind these numbers are some interesting facts. About a third of the amount can be traced to just two investments – an electric car start-up and a solar energy company. The car start-up’s $80m-plus in venture money came after the US government provided a $465m loan guarantee to build its factory. The solar company’s nearly $200m in private capital came after the government gave it $535m in loan guarantees.
It is clear to many that without taxpayers’ funds and support, the growth in cleantech might be facing much steeper hurdles in terms of attracting capital. We have only just begun to see the impact of government intervention on cleantech, especially as otherwise commercially challenged products and services gain the benefit of subsidies and incentives. Some of this encouragement will be transparent: credits to consumers to boost sales and company grants and loans. More will be entwined in creative tax legislation.
Creation of the ‘low-carbon’ economy may hit some snags, if climate change sceptics gain traction or if some subsidies become too big for government deficits. But, influential business and banking constituencies are joining with environmentalists in a cause that promises subsidised profits and even allows them to admit who they work for.
Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations.