Triple-digit heat wave delivering on climate fears #62

Record-setting heat waves and the Western drought signaling a new climate paradigm

Happy Monday!

Is it just us or does it feel way too hot to be the start of July? It certainly was last week in the Pacific Northwest, with a 1 in 1,000 heat dome event setting a scorching 121ºF heat record in British Columbia. This week, we dive into the long-term implications of extreme heat and how its compounding effect with the Western drought is straining our power and food supply systems.

We also feature a doozy of climate tech fundings (we take one week off!), with five companies raising more than $100m each for energy efficient motors all the way to cell-cultivated steaks. In this week’s headlines, Greenpeace went undercover to air Exxon’s dirty secrets and policymakers and corporates alike continue to push the Clean Energy Standard.

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Heat is hitting climate change home

The impacts of climate change hit home when there’s a record-shattering heat wave. Last week, the Pacific Northwest (PNW) experienced three-digit temperatures – breaking all-time records by 7-9ºF. Portland reached 117ºF, Seattle broke to 108ºF, and Lytton, a village in British Columbia, clocked in at 121ºF. A day after Lytton set the all-time Canadian heat record, a fast-moving wildfire engulfed the town. The heat was so extreme in other regions too that it led to hundreds of deaths across Oregon and Washington, melted the cables powering Portland’s streetcar transit, and buckled the asphalt of state highways.

This particular heat wave was caused by a weather phenomenon known as a “heat dome”, a high pressure system trapping and pushing rising hot air back down. In the 20th century, heat domes were 1 in 1,000 year (0.1%) events. Now, scientists believe that if the world warms another 1.5ºF, the probability could increase to as much as 20%. A study from an international group of climate scientists has concluded that the PNW heat wave “would have been virtually impossible without climate change”.

All-time high temperatures in Portland (Source: Axios, Robert Rohde)

The dire consequences of extreme heat are not limited to just a three-day event. Heat is also a primary cause for the Western drought. As temperatures rise, the mountain snowpacks providing water to the West have been melting much earlier and faster. The entire state of California is under some degree of drought with 33% under exceptional drought (the most intense drought classification). Extreme temperatures and associated reservoirs and fields drying up are exacerbating the already precarious challenge of powering electric grids and supplying food.

Electricity. Just this past month in the US, Washington state residents experienced rolling blackouts, and Texas, New York, and California all issued mass emergency alerts to conserve energy to prevent power outages. With everyone flipping on their ACs, hydro dams operating at low water levels, and thermal generators running at lower efficiencies due to the heat, grids around the globe are stressed. Hydropower has contributed its fair share to clean energy generation in the West (16% of California energy generation in 2019). But, with water reservoir levels dwindling, grid operators like CAISO are scrambling to find other sources of generation like gas-fired plants.

Agriculture. Meanwhile in California’s Central Valley, which supplies 2/3rds of our fruit and nuts and more than 1/3rd of our vegetables, some farmers are opting to sell water over crops for better profits. Others are letting portions of their fields sit idle. In a state where 40% of farms are irrigated, water can be shockingly scarce and its limited capacity carefully allocated between agriculture and municipal use for cities and towns.

Extreme weather is more than just turning up your AC. As each summer gets hotter and drier, we face a worsening wildfire season and risk breaking the delicate balance of our electricity and agriculture systems. Last week’s heat wave is sending a clear signal that we’re past the point of pure-play mitigation and need more innovation and infrastructure focused on climate resilience and adaptation.


Deals of the Week (6/28-7/11)

Turntide Technologies, a Sunnyvale, CA-based developer of highly efficient electric motors, raised$225m in funding from the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Monashee Capital, Suvretta Capital Management, and JLL Spark.

Enpal, a Germany-based photovoltaic systems provider, raised $118m in funding from HV Capital, E.R. Capital, FRIBA Investment, and Heliad Equity Partners.

🔋 Verkor, a France-based battery cell producer, raised $118m in funding from EQT Ventures, Renault Group, EIT InnoEnergy, IDEC, Schneider Electric, Capgemini, Arkema, and others.

🥩 Aleph Farms, an Israel-based cultivated meat company growing steaks from animal cells, raised $105m in Series B funding from L Catterton, Skyviews Life Science, DisruptAD, and others.

🔋 Solid Energy Systems, a Woburn, MA-based developer of hybrid li-metal batteries, raised $100m in funding from Hyundai.

💨 Twelve, (formerly Opus 12), a Berkeley, CA-based carbon transformation startup, raised $57m in Series A funding from Capricorn Technology Impact Fund, Carbon Direct Capital Management, DCVC, Munich Re Ventures, Microsoft Climate Innovation Fund, Breakout Ventures, and Evok Innovations.

Skeleton Technologies, an Estonia-based maker of ultracapacitor-based energy storage systems, raised $34m in Series D extension funding from Marubeni Corporation, MM Grupp, and Harju Elekter.

💨 BreezoMeter, an Israel-based air quality data provider, raised $30m in Series C funding from Fortissimo Capital, Entrée Capital, JumpSpeed Ventures, Launchpad Digital Health, AxessVentures, and Eurazeo.

🌱 Fortera, a Campbell, CA-based producer of low carbon cement, raised $30m in Series B funding from Temasek and Khosla Ventures.

🔋 VRB Energy, a British Columbia-based developer of vanadium redox batteries, raised $24m in funding from BCPG, a Thailand-based developer of renewable energy projects.

💨 Svante, a British Columbia-based provider of carbon capture technology, raised $20m in funding from the Government of Canada.

Electra, a France-based provider of EV charging stations, raised $18m in Seed funding from Eurazeo, Frst Capital, Kima Ventures, and Serena Capital.

🚗 Lacuna Technologies, a Palo Alto, CA-based provider of urban transportation management software, raised $16m in Series A funding from Xplorer Capital Management and PlayGround Global.

✈️ ZeroAvia, a Hollister, CA-based hydrogen-powered aviation startup, raised $13m in additional funding from AP Ventures, Alumni Ventures Group, SGH Capital, Breakthrough Energy Ventures, Summa Equity, Shell Ventures, SYSTEMIQ, and Horizons Ventures.

🧪 FabricNano, a UK-based company developing a fossil-free biomanufacturing method for producing chemicals, raised $12.5m from Atomico, Biz Stone, Emma Watson, and former Bayer CEO Alexander Moscho.

❄️ Infinite Cooling, a Somerville, MA-based cooling startup focused on reducing water consumption, raised $12.3m in Series A funding from Material Impact.

ev.energy, a UK-based EV charging software, raised $8.8m Series A funding from Energy Impact Partners and Future Energy Ventures.

🐝 Beeflow, a San Francisco, CA-based startup looking to protect bees, raised $8.3m in Series A funding from Ospraie Ag Science, Vectr Ventures, SOSV, IndieBio, Grid Exponential, and Future Ventures.

💰 Single.Earth, a-based carbon credit crypto token market, raised $7.9m in Seed funding from EQT Ventures and Icebreaker.

Energyworx, a Netherlands-based energy data management software platform, raised $6m in Series A funding from Eneco Ventures, SET Ventures, Engie, and EDP Ventures.

🔋 ION energy, an India-based developer of battery management and analytics software, raised $3.6m in Seed funding from Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund, Climate Capital, YourNest Venture Capital, Riso Capital, Venture Catalysts and others.

💨 Cloverly, an Atlanta, GA-based developer of APIs for companies to measure and offset carbon emissions, raised $2.1m in Seed funding from TechSquare Ventures, SoftBank, Panoramic Ventures, Circadian Ventures, Knoll Ventures and SaaS Ventures.

🌱 August, a New York, NY based company creating biodegradable period care products, raised $1.9m in Seed funding from Hannah Grey VC, Bullish, xFactor Ventures, and individual investors affiliated with Glossier, Refinery29, Lively and more.

Later-Stage Fundings / New Funds:

BMW i Ventures announced a new $300m fund to further its investment in technologies that make transportation, manufacturing and supply chains more sustainable.

Lewis & Clark AgriFood, a St. Louis-based agrifood investor, raised $257m for its two growth equity funds.

Active Impact Investments, a Vancouver-based environmental impact venture firm, closed a $54m climate tech fund.

General Motors announced the creation of a $25m climate equity fund as it transitions to an all-electric vehicles company.

Heliogen is going public in a reverse merger with SPAC Athena Technology Acquisition Corp, valuing the company at $2B.

Planet, a company that operates a network of around 200 satellites providing Earth imaging, is going public in a reverse merger with SPAC dMY Technology Group IV, valuing the company at $2.8B.

JPMorgan is buying OpenInvest, an ESG investing platform in the bank’s third fintech acquisition of the past year.

Blackstone is acquiring Sphera, an ESG platform, for $1.4B.


In the News

Gina McCarthy, the domestic climate chief, and Anita Dunn, a senior advisor, publicly circulated a memo lauding the bipartisan infrastructure plan but pointing out the need for a Clean Energy Standard. Over 75 corporations including GM, Apple, and Unilever have also come out with an open letter in support of the CES.

Rubbing salt in Exxon’s fresh Engine-shaped wound, Greenpeace uncovered how Exxon weakened climate action and science over the years in a covert video recording interviewing Exxon’s senior director of federal relations, “Did we aggressively fight against some of the science? Yes.”

Mukesh Ambani, who became Asia’s richest man through India’s largest oil refining and petrochemicals conglomerate, announced a $10.1b investment towards the energy transition over the course of three years, roughly one-sixth of Reliance’s annual revenue. The capital will back four gigafactories to manufacture solar modules, hydrogen, fuel cells, and batteries.

Carbon Engineering, a direct air capture company, is partnering with BeZero Carbon to offer carbon removal for the masses. If you have some casual Benjamins lying around, you can buy a “basket” of nature-based and DAC removal for $68/ ton or pre-purchase (Kickstarter-style?) DAC removal units for an undisclosed price.

Not quite Dieselgate, but NOx-gate. The European Commission fined Volkswagen and BMW $1B for colluding to avoid competition on improving technical development in reducing nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

TotalEnergies and Uber are teaming up to bring Uber EV drivers in France access to TotalEnergies charging stations. The companies will track drivers’ habits and routes to figure out where to install future charging sites.

All aboard the decarbonization train. BNSF just completed a test of a first of its kind battery-powered train from Barstow to Stockton in California (think the length of LA to SF). Meanwhile San Bernardino has ordered a hydrogen fuel cell-powered passenger train to go into service by 2024.

While the debate between gray, green, and blue hydrogen rages on, a Breakthrough Energy Ventures-backed startup, C-Zero, is introducing the world to a new turquoise hydrogen production facility set to produce hydrogen fuel at the end of 2022. (Confused about the colors? It’s okay.)


Pop-up

First forests, now the ocean. An underwater pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico caught ablaze causing an “eye of fire” in the ocean.

Even Hawaii is facing a surge of wildfires this summer.

Trying to beat the heat and cut down your emissions? Consider ditching your AC for a heat pump.

Robert Bullard points out a new opportunity for environmental justice via a new vacancy in FERC.

Animal crossing IRL. An $87m wildlife bridge is being proposed in LA to save the cougars.

The key to decarbonizing shipping may lie in its origins, modern wind sails.

The connection between Miami’s real estate problems and climate change is becoming clear.

Investors are helping space startups take off.

One-third of Americans deny human-caused climate change exists (even with this heat).

Ever wonder where a raindrop really goes? Click on this map to find out.

Opportunities & Events:

🗓️ Activate Fellowship Application Webinar: Join Activate on July 13th to learn about their fellowship for science entrepreneurs and how to apply.

🗓️ IndieBio Demo Day: Join IndieBio for its virtual San Francisco Demo Day 2021 on July 15th to see its graduating cohort present.

🗓️ Techstars Sustainability Roundtable: Join Amazon Climate Pledge Fund, Shopify, and Climate Finance Solutions on July 15th for a conversation about how climate startups are getting funding.

🗓️ Drawdown Europe Hackathon: Drawdown Europe Research Association is hosting a weekend long virtual hackathon July 23-25th to build out a climate solutions platform for modeling CO2 reduction.

💡 Clean Energy Trust: Apply by August 2nd to Clean Energy Trust’s 501vc Seed Fund which invests $100-300k in early stage cleantech startups in the Mid-Continent region of the US.


Jobs

Venture Capital Associate @AgFunder

Investment Analyst/ Associate @Generate Capital

Energy and Environment Associate / Senior Associate @Emerson Collective

Associate Director @The Grantham Foundation

Environment Program Officer @Hewlett Foundation

Co-founder and CTO @Stealth Heat Pump Co

Head of Engineering @Sublime Systems

Science and Policy Director @NCX

Process Engineer; Chemist @Twelve (formerly Opus12)

Software Engineer; Project Development Director @Form Energy

Director of Policy and Regulatory Affairs @Dandelion Energy

Full Stack Engineer @OhmConnect


Feel free to send us new ideas, recent fundings, or general curiosities. Have a great week ahead!

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