🌍 Overheard at SFCW #195

Sunny techno-optimism in foggy San Francisco

CTVC

Happy Monday! 

Nice to see so many of you over the past few days at San Francisco Climate Week! Like a mini, tech-focused NY Climate Week, this year's SFCW convened founders and funders to riff about the climate capital tech stack, FOAK, the grid, and, of course, AI. Read on for some of our takeaways and a little game we made for you. Bingo!

In other news, DOE plans to speed up federal transmission permitting; capital infusion for transformer manufacturing; and a failed takeover in copper mining companies.

In deals, $100m in debt funding for renewable energy development; $30m for hydrogen production; and $27m for electric motorcycles.

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By the bay at SF Climate Week 

San Francisco hosted its second annual Climate Week last week, gathering thousands of people across big tech, startups, investors, government, and corporates. A sunny mood pervaded, despite the fog, as attendees switched out their suits and blazers for half-zips and Hokas to trek across the hilly city for the week. Rather than hotel ballrooms and conference centers, conversations took place in swanky tech offices and the brand new 9zero climate co-working space in the center of SF’s FiDi.

San Francisco Climate Week upped the ante since its inaugural event last year. Despite its youth, the event has grown rapidly since last year. There were 300+ affiliated events (and even more unofficial ones), with 750+ organizations and over 15K attendees. Attendee lists for events quickly filled up for those with hot topics and hot meals. While this year was much more packed and lively than last, it still felt smaller and more manageable than a New York Climate Week, like a less chaotic little sibling. And the week was, perhaps expectedly, focused far more on the startup and VC narratives of climate tech compared to NYCW. It wouldn’t be San Francisco without plenty of techno-optimism, but it wouldn’t be the climate community without a healthy dose of skepticism. With the November election looming in the backdrop, it felt like a race to get government funds flowing and the capital stack tapped into the most demonstrably effective tech solutions.

A fireside chat with Kim Zou on climate tech investment trends at SFCW.

Our SFCW observations, aka SFCW Bingo

  • SF Climate Week, more like SF Climate Tech Week. The majority of attendees had roles in or around tech, even those in corporates and government. At NYCW, it's a whole slew of corporates, policymakers, C-Suites, and sustainability professionals who are focused on a broad swath of climate issues (especially because it's centered around UN Climate Week). SFCW instead drew startup founders and operators, venture folks, and the early-stage or startup engagement teams at corporates/governments. These participants included CVCs like Salesforce’s Ventures Impact Fund, corporate incubators like Google X, and government folks from DOE OTT and the National Labs.
  • Scaling climate tech is hard (especially for hardware). The “missing middle” for scaling is real, given the amount of capital needed, lack of ready and willing investors, and questions around successful exits. With few examples in the space, there’s no clear answer for what exits look like for climate tech companies. Instead, “there’s lots of bodies buried across these industries,” ​​Abe Yokell, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Congruent Ventures, said. Common sage advice: If the end goal is FOAK and/or NOAK, engage early with different capital providers proactively, from potential strategic partners like CVCs to project financiers and debt providers. Meanwhile, there was a greater recognition of FOAK and the need for different types of funders for it. New entrants are joining the market to meet these needs:
    • Catalytic: Trellis Climate (spun out of Prime Coalition) and Builders Vision (backed by Lukas Walton) are new entrants in catalytic funding, building new FOAK financing vehicles and programs to fill the funding gap in the "missing middle." 
    • Strategic: Strategic investors are providing more than just financial backing. Case in point: Anglo American supported Limelight Steel as an early strategic investor, offering iron ore to secure and de-risk supply.
    • Government: The DOE was present at SFCW, with Vanessa Chan from OTT providing a common ground for commercialization through Adoption Readiness Levels (ARL) and Liftoff Reports (including their latest on gridtech). Beyond frameworks and funding, the DOE also emphasized its extensive scientific resources through its 17 national labs, where programs like Labstart and Activate have emerged to bring new technologies to market. 
  • AI, AI, AI everywhere. Folks in the “AI capital of the world” were, unsurprisingly, bullish on AI. We heard at least 50 (yes, we counted) new use cases for AI as a climate solution, including its ability to more accurately predict production at geothermal sites, to better tally species’ populations for conservation, and to improve recycling centers’ categorization. Dozens of events focused on AI intersections, from an AI and energy happy hour, to an AI and DeepTech roundtable, to an AI and wine panel, to a GenAI hike. However, concerns about the challenges associated with AI, like the growth in power demand from more data centers, were largely presented as opportunities to continue to make data centers more energy efficient, or to work with data center co-locators and utilities to improve siting and clean energy access.
  • The grid’s gridlock. More AI (and electrification) = more power demand. “There is nearly infinite demand for computation which means infinite demand for power,” said ​Brian Janous, Co-Founder of Cloverleaf Infrastructure. With this increased strain, advanced grid-tech solutions took center stage. Conversations around utility-level challenges focused on how renewables can’t come in fast enough to meet data center demand, given regulatory and supply blockers. Meanwhile, startups debuted solutions, from next-gen batteries to grid-enhancing tech to platforms to help speed up permitting. Policymakers described ways to accelerate commercialization and adoption with new incentives.
  • Uncertainty about the election and the Inflation Reduction Act. The IRA brought new incentives, funding, and momentum to climate tech, especially for investors, making more tech underwrite-able than before. Investors acknowledged that this could all change with a change in administration. Some investors have added in a “Trump case,” to ensure that the math for startups still works if Biden isn’t reelected.

We had a lot of fun at SFCW — and we wanted to make a game out of some of SFCW’s buzziest topics and buzzwords. 

SFCW BINGO: What we heard (and saw)

AI (will save us)

Grid-tech

“Unit economics”

Modular

“Missing middle”

“The Tesla of” X

The IRA

Hokas

“24/7”

Data center

ARL (iykyk)

9Zero

FREE SPACE

FOAK

Man buns

“Incentive alignment”

“Load growth”

“Sorry, this event is full.”

AI (will destroy us)

“Capital stack”

Wine and vegan cheese happy hours

Election

Electron

“Catalytic”

Fusion

Any SFCW takeaways you had? Any bingo boxes you think we’re missing? Other feedback? As always, reach out, we’d love to hear from you! 


Deals of the Week (4/22 - 4/28)

Late-Stage / Growth

🛵 Stark Future, a Barcelona, Spain-based electric motorcycle technology developer, raised $27m in Growth funding from Big Bets. 

🏠 Infogrid, a London, UK-based building management and efficiency platform, raised $13m in Series C funding from Keyframe Capital Partners and A/O PropTech. 

Early-Stage

Green Energy Park, a São Paulo, Brazil-based hydrogen production projects developer, raised $30m in Series A funding. 

🔋 Chemix, a Sunnyvale, CA-based AI-based EV battery development platform, raised $20m in Series A funding from Ibex Investors, BNP Paribas, Berkeley SkyDeck, Global Brain, Mayfield Fund, Porsche Ventures, and Urban Innovation Fund. 

🔋 Exowatt, a Miami, FL-based modular energy platform for data centers, raised $20m in Seed funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Atomic, and Sam Altman. 

💨 Treefera, a London, UK-based forest monitoring and data platform, raised $12m in Series A funding from AlbionVC. 

Texture, a New York City, NY-based energy data platform, raised $8m in Seed funding from Abstract Ventures, Day One Ventures, Equal Ventures, and Lerer Hippeau.

🔋 Terra One, a Berlin, Germany-based large-scale battery storage systems platform, raised $8m in Seed funding from 468 Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Hedosophia, Neosfer, and PT1. 

🌱 Accacia, a Gurgaon, India-based real estate decarbonization platform, raised $6m in Seed funding from Illuminate Financial, AC Ventures, Accel, and B Capital Group. 

🔋 Aquabattery, a Rijnsburg, Netherlands-based water-based energy storage developer, raised $6m in Seed funding from EIT InnoEnergy, Init Power, InnovationQuarter, and Invest-NL. 

💨 Goodcarbon, a Berlin, Germany-based nature-based solutions marketplace platform, raised $6m in Seed funding from Ocean 14 Capital, 468 Capital, Greenfield Capital, Planet A Ventures, and Silverstrand Capital.

🧪 Bioform Technologies, a Vancouver, Canada-based biodegradable plastics manufacturer, raised $5m in Seed funding from Suzano Ventures. 

🛰 Radical, a San Francisco, CA-based high-altitude solar-powered sensor aircraft maker, raised $4m in Seed funding from Scout Ventures, Inflection Mercury Fund, and Y Combinator. 

Canopus, a The Hague, Netherlands-based geothermal drilling solutions platform, raised $3m in Seed funding from Underground Ventures, ENERGIIQ, and SHIFT Invest. 

♻️ Sorted, a London, UK-based digital waste management solutions platform, raised $2m in Seed funding from Pi Labs, Antler, Archipelago Eco Investors, Circular Plastics Accelerator, and The Conduit Connect.

Other

Agilitas Energy, a Wakefield, NY-based renewable energy developer, raised $100m in Debt funding from Nomura. 

🔋 On.Energy, a Miami, FL-based energy storage developer, raised $25m in Debt funding from Lombard Odier. 

🌬 Ocergy, an Oakland, CA-based developer of floating foundations for wind turbines, raised an undisclosed amount in Corporate Strategic funding from Octopus Energy. 

New Funds

Decarbonization Partners, a New York, NY-based investment firm, held a $1.4bn final close on their debut fund.  

Can’t get enough deals? See full listings and deal analytics on Sightline Climate


In the News

The Department of Energy announced plans to speed up the federal transmission permitting process, setting a 2-year deadline for decisions on permit applications, which today take an average of four years. This initiative aligns with the administration's broader goal of upgrading 100,000 miles of transmission lines in the next five years using advanced grid tech.

Hitachi Energy is investing $1.5bn to build a new facility for transformer production, aiming to modernize and expand the power grid. This significant investment reflects the growing demand for grid infrastructure upgrades as equipment ages and electrification accelerates.

The Environmental Protection Agency introduced new regulations for U.S. coal-fired power plants to cut their emissions by 90% by 2039. This move could lead to coal plant closures or the adoption of carbon capture technology, impacting the energy landscape amid rising demand from data centers and electric vehicles.

The Biden administration set the first-ever national goal for a zero-emission freight sector, with a $1.5bn fund to support the transition to zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles. In other White House news, the administration banned the use of gas in new federal buildings. 

Mining company BHP proposed a $38.9 billion takeover of Anglo American’s copper operations in a deal that could have created the world's leading copper producer, controlling approximately 10% of the global copper mine supply. Anglo American rejected the offer, considering it an undervaluation of its assets. This proposal highlights the increasing value of copper, driven by growing demand amid the energy transition and anticipated supply shortages.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved a streamlined environmental review process for advanced nuclear technology, which could accelerate the commercialization and deployment of next-generation reactors.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) implemented policy changes to support geothermal energy production on federal land. Under the new policies, geothermal power developers can bypass environmental assessments for exploration proposals that meet specific criteria, aligning it with the regulatory framework for oil and gas.

U.S. investors withdrew a record $8.8bn from sustainable investment funds in Q1 of 2024. This outflow reflects shifting trends in the sustainable finance sector and the politicization of ESG in the U.S. — but meanwhile, across the pond, 84% of ESG assets are held in Europe.

The UK approved a new mandate requiring that all flights departing the UK use 10% sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) by 2030, above the EU’s required 6%. The move lays the foundations for an uptick in the nation’s SAF production capacity.


Pop-up

A nuclear fusion milestone from Z pinchers.

Harrison Ford asks us to start “Listening to the Quiet” in honor of Earth Day.

Banning solar geoengineering is hard because no one regulates the stratosphere (but Mexico once tried to).

Research indicates adding hydrogen to natural gas for heating is just a lot of hot air.

New type of climate disaster: gully erosion-created ravines that swallow neighborhoods.

The most deadly natural disasters might not be climate-caused.

A survey reveals that just as 100 companies emit 70% of fossil fuels, 60 firms cause 50% of global plastic pollution.

See how much Europe is heating up with this Climate Change map.

Report suggests gas cutbacks as data centers turn up efficiency.

Snæfellsjökull, underdog Icelandic presidential candidate, meets all the requirements: older than 35 years, resident of Iceland, but technically a 700,000-year-old glacier


Opportunities & Events

📅 Sightline Climate x Innovate UK: Getting it Built: Join Sightline Climate and Innovate UK for an invite-only session at Innovation Zero in London on April 30th on transitioning climate capital from fundraising to project deployment.  The session will immediately follow the opening plenary of the Innovation Zero conference.

📅 EPA CHDV Grant Program: Register to attend the EPA’s Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicles (CHDV) Grant Program information session on April 30th for insights into the $1 billion funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act for replacing Class 6 and 7 non-zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles with zero-emission alternatives.

📅 Out in Climate Panel: RSVP to join other queer professionals on May 7th for a panel sponsored by JLL featuring senior leaders sharing their experiences as queer professionals in sustainability roles within corporate and consultancy environments.

📅 Transition-AI: Register to join Stephen Lacey from Latitude Media and others on May 8th for a deep dive into the soaring energy demands of data centers and the impact of AI workloads on the grid. 

📅 SAF Supply Chain Initiative 2024: Register to attend a comprehensive conference from May 8-9th focused on advancing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and building a robust supply chain, exploring the latest developments, challenges, and opportunities in the SAF sector.

📅 Powering AI Infrastructure: RSVP to join Keyframe Capital and Boston Consulting Group on May 16th for an exploration of nuanced perspectives on investment and infrastructure for the future of AI and data centers.

💡 Climate Corps Fellowship Program: Apply to join the SEI Climate Corps Fellowship Program by June 3rd if you're passionate about climate change and committed to community-level action.


Jobs

📣 Check out our new and improved CTVC job board where you can find and post opportunities to work in climate! We've transitioned from Pallet to Niceboard to bring you the best roles in climate tech. If you have any questions, give us a shout at [email protected].

Research Lead; Data Operations Associate; Research Intern @Sightline Climate

Mechanical Engineer; Direct-Air-Capture Lead; Solar Project Lead @Rivian

Senior Software Engineer @Arch

Impact Director @Wollemi Capital

People/ HR Intern @Remora

Investment Analyst @GiantLeap

Chief of Staff @Fervo Energy

Impact Director @Wollemi Capital


📩 Feel free to send us deals, announcements, or anything else at [email protected]. Have a great week ahead! 

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