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商业 - 能源

绿色能源投资新途径

Brian Dumaine 2013年03月04日

2012年,风投公司在全球清洁技术公司投资额达到65亿美元,比之前一年锐减了三分之一还多。与此同时,来自沃尔玛、Gap和其他公司的知名高管们改变了投资策略,开始探索新的途径投资绿色能源。他们开始关注食品、能源和水等基本的生存需求领域,同时把投资重点从能源初创公司转向整个价值链,投资策略也以长线投资为主。

    风险投资界把绿色能源投资称为“死亡之谷”。掌握创新绿色技术的许多很有希望的公司,最终却因为资金短缺而夭折。结果证明,创办能源公司不同于成立一家软件公司。这可不是几个天才在车库里就能办到的。能源公司的经营需要达到巨大的规模,而且动辄需要数十亿美元的资金投入。

    所以,清洁技术初创公司投资缩水并不令人意外。据调查公司Cleantech Group最近公布的数字显示,2012年,风投公司在全球清洁技术公司投资额达到65亿美元,比之前一年减少了33%。

    到底发生了什么?随着天然气越来越便宜,而蜂拥而至的中国厂商又推出了更廉价的系统,光伏太阳能设备制造商遭到了沉重打击。Brightsource是一家前景广阔的初创公司,在美国莫哈韦沙漠建立了一个庞大的太阳热能发电厂,如今却也不得不推迟首次公开募股。就连清洁技术投资的先锋、硅谷最激进的风投公司之一——优点资本(Vantage Point),最近也宣布将停止为125亿美元的清洁技术基金募集资金。优点资本投资的公司包括电动汽车制造商特斯拉(Tesla)和Brightsource。这家公司发现,许多机构投资者对于绿色能源长线投资已经失去了兴趣。

    风投纷纷撤离的时候,却有一群富有的名流开始尝试一种新的清洁技术投资方式,其中包括沃尔玛(Wal-Mart)董事长罗布•沃尔顿、Gap公司董事长鲍勃•费舍尔,以及价值数十亿美元的法拉龙基金(Farallon)创始人汤姆•斯泰尔。他们都资助了一家名为EFW(分别代表能源、食品与水)的公司。投资重点并不是能源初创公司,而是在整个价值链进行长线投资,从拥有前景广阔的小规模技术型私营企业到大规模项目,都是这家公司投资的目标。

    EFW主要致力于对能源、食品与水这些资源的投资。随着全球人口增加以及发展中国家越来越多的人实现中产阶级的生活方式,人们对这些资源的需求将日益增加。同时,这些资源的价格变化也将变得更加反复无常。EFW联合创始人兼合伙人、曾在麦肯锡公司(McKinsey)担任顾问的斯科特•雅各布斯说:“我们会告诉寻求投资的基金,气候变化可能给他们带来的风险,以及自然资源正变得越来越稀有这一事实。实际上,这个投资主题贯穿了所有投资行业,但却没有得到很好的重视。”

    这家投资公司投资的初创企业包括太阳能开发商Sungevity和以海藻为原料的化学品公司Solazyme。同时,公司还将投资与能源、水和食品相关的大型项目。雅各布斯说:“我们比其他投资公司更加灵活——我们是长线投资者,可以在任何行业、任何地方以及一家公司生命周期的任何阶段进行投资。”看来,这些了解内情的投资者们正在下一个赌注,那就是,长线投资+灵活投资必将带来回报。(财富中文网)

    译者:刘进龙/汪皓

    In the world of venture capital they call it the valley of death. Scores of promising start-ups armed with innovative green technology end up stranded in the desert for lack of capital. Energy, it turns out, is not like launching a software company. You need a lot more than a few brilliant geeks in a garage. Energy operates on a huge scale and can require billions in investment capital.

    It's little surprise then that investment in clean tech startups is shrinking. According to the latest numbers from the research firm the Cleantech Group, venture capital firms globally invested $6.5 billion in clean tech companies in 2012—down 33% from the previous year.

    What's going on? Photovoltaic solar manufacturers have been hard hit by cheap natural gas as well as the Chinese flooding the market with inexpensive systems. Brightsource, the promising startup building a massive solar thermal plant in the Mojave desert, delayed its IPO. Even the VC firm Vantage Point partners, for years in the vanguard of clean tech investing and one of the most Silicon Valley's aggressive players, recently announced that it has stopped raising its $1.25 billion clean tech fund. Vantage Point, which invested in electric car maker Tesla (TSLA) as well as Brightsource, has found that many institutional investors are losing their appetite for long-shot green energy bets.

    As the VC are retreating, a small group of well-heeled notables including Wal-Mart (WMT) Chairman Rob Walton, Gap (GPS) Chairman Bob Fisher, and Tom Steyer, the founder of the multi-billion Farallon fund, are experimenting with a new clean-tech investing approach. They are backing a firm called EFW (for Energy, Food, Water) and instead of focusing only on energy startups, it is making long-term bets all along the value chain from small private firms with promising technology to large-scale projects.

    EFW focuses on investments in those resources—energy, food, and water—that are bound to grow more in demand as global population levels rise and millions more in the developing world achieve middle-class life-styles. The prices of these resources are likely to become more volatile as well. Says Scott Jacobs, a co-founder and partner at EFW and a former consultant at McKinsey: "We tell pension funds looking to invest how exposed to risk they are from climate change and the that fact natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce. It's a theme that cuts across all the investment silos and hasn't been managed well."

    The firm has invested in startups such as solar financer Sungevity and the algae-based chemical company Solazyme. At the same time it will invest in big projects related to energy, water and food. Says Jacobs: "We're more flexible than other investors—we're long-term investors who can put money anywhere in the sectors and anywhere in the world and anywhere in the life cycle of a company." The smart money, it seems, is betting that long term, flexibility will pay.

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