The potential and the limitations of venture capital as a source of funding for clean energy.

If venture capital’s role in clean energy is to be more transformative in creating a sustainable society then the trends revealed in this (free access) paper must gain momentum, but whether these trends will continue to gain momentum is not certain.
The Promise and Pitfalls of Venture Capital as an Asset Class for Clean Energy Investment” reviews both the potential and the limitations of venture capital (VC) as a source of funding for clean energy. Alfred Marcus, Joel Malen and Shmuel Ellis provide preliminary evidence that venture capitalists (VCs) have been adjusting their operating procedures to accommodate clean energy. First, they have been investing larger amounts of money for longer periods of time. Second, they have started to avoid funding high risk production, distribution, and installation manufacturing and production companies and to a greater degree have been funding companies that focus on the intersection between information technology and energy. Third, besides making bigger bets, stretching out their timetables, and avoiding high risk and capital intensive companies, they have been experimenting with investments in companies with very risky technologies. Were these companies to succeed in commercializing these technologies the impact on the natural environment would be very great.

The authors challenge organization and natural environment scholars to take up questions like these and others that deal with clean energy funding. Amongst a number of possible funding sources, what role is venture capital best suited to play? How would it need to change to play a more significant role? What would have to happen for venture capital to stimulate a major breakthrough, one that was of the magnitude of the Internet in transforming our economy and society in a more sustainable direction?


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